Oak and gilding
Overall: 73 1/4 x 63 1/2 x 7in. (186.1 x 161.3 x 17.8cm.)
Decorative Arts and Design
Wendy and Emery Reves Collection - Great Hall, Level 3
Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art.

General Description

This frame is among the finest 18th-century frames in the Reves collection at the DMA. Although it has lost a small portion of the cartouche at the bottom center (which would have looked like those on the left and right sides), it is otherwise in a fine state, having never been adapted to fit another work of art, and having never been regilded or resurfaced to play a role in an updated interior. The inter-twined "L" motif in the top center cartouche suggests that the frame originally held a royal portrait or, less likely, that it was carved for an important vertical painting in the French royal collection. If the latter is true, the frame was probably originally hung in one of the palaces in or near Paris--the Louvre, the Tuileries, Versailles, Marly-le-Roi, or Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Like all French frames made during the second half of the 17th and early 18th centuries, this one has its greatest thickness along the outside and makes its most exuberant decorative gestures at the corners and midpoints of each side. An "inner frame" covers the edges of the stretcher and appears to be held in place by a variety of tendrils (carved in high relief and occasionally in full relief) that grow in great rhythmic curves from the corner cartouches. These powerful vines have a counterpoint in the low-relief floral vegetation that runs behind them, which has its most splendid elaboration on the four corners. The central cartouches each approximate architecture, with their carved grids and brackets suggesting furniture and moldings.

What is particularly splendid about this frame is its surface, which combines oil and water gilding for greater variety and sparkle. The undersides and the smooth concave surface between the inner and outer frames are oil gilded and highly burnished so that they shine almost like a golden mirror. The complex areas of relief are water gilded, probably on white or yellow gesso, producing a lighter surface that permits visual comprehension of the complex carving. To give extra visual drama to the whole, the gilder picked out certain details to oil gild--repeated carved balls and other ovoid or spherical shapes--and then burnished these so that they glow like pearls amid the textured wealth of water-gilded vegetation.

Excerpt from

Dallas Museum of Art, Decorative Arts Highlights from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1995), 67.