Frames from the collection of the Richard Green Gallery: Part II

Frames from the collection of the Richard Green Gallery: Part II

R ichard Green opened his first gallery in 1955, and has been in business ever since – now with a gallery in New Bond Street, where he, his brother, sister and two further generations are taking the firm forward into its next seventy years. During its growth it has accumulated a striking collection of antique frames, as a working pool from which to reframe paintings more suitably, or to act as models for hand-carved replicas, or into which discarded but valuable items have swum. The collection has grown so large that a careful selection of frames has been made from its ranks, forming two important sales at Sotheby’s, London. The first of these was held in April 2023 - and the second will follow from 4th - 10th April 2024.

This second tranche of frames contains 151 lots; they date mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries, and are composed of French and British patterns with a few Italian designs. Many retain their original gilding, and are extremely decorative in their own right. They are also adaptable – the perfect setting for contemporary paintings, they can also be used very effectively to display modern works.


This very beautiful pair of 17th century garland frames once belonged to two Netherlandish marriage or betrothal portraits by Nicolaes Eliasz. Pickenoy, dated 1635, and may have been made for them forty or fifty years later by descendants of the sitters. Like Britain, the Netherlands – being close to France – rapidly absorbed elements of current Parisian fashion: the architect and designer Daniel Marot would, slightly later, diffuse the Louis XIV style in the courts of London and The Hague.

Cornelis Janson van Ceulen II (1634-1715), Aletta Pater, c. 1662, oil on canvas, 114 x 90.5 cm., Centraal Museum, Utrecht.

The Louis XIII garland frame, with its high relief festoons of undulating, naturalistically carved leaves, berries and flowers, was a fashionable and nearly-related development of the mid-17th century Netherlandish Auricular frame covered with sculptural swags of fruit and foliage, like the original frame for the portrait by Cornelis Janson van Ceulen II (see above). The French evolution from this style was narrower, neater, and echoed architectural woodwork which might be used to decorate doorcases, cornices and chimneypieces.

 The pair of frames in lot 9 would have provided an ultra-modish method of updating important family portraits for the children or grandchildren of the sitters in the later 17th century and could form an impressive counterpoint to the present-day tendency for the mass reframing of Netherlandish paintings in ebony frames.

Images from left to right: Nicolaes Eliasz. Pickenoy (1588-1650/1656), Portrait of a Young Woman, 1632, oil on panel, 118.7 × 91.1 cm. J. Paul Getty Museum, no. 54.PB.3 ; montaged with Lot 9 . Simon Vouet (1590-1649), Madonna & Child, Sotheby’s New York, 25 May 2022, Lot 11 ; montaged with Lot 9 .

They might equally well be used for a pair of contemporary French portraits, or – for example – on sacred pictures: a French Madonna & Child of the same period, perhaps, when the flowers might take on symbolic significance (roses for the Madonna and paeonies for resurrection).

Lot 67 is closely related to Lot 9, in that it is a British version of the same Louis XIII design, although it has fewer flowers and is less naturalistically carved. In this version of the style, leaves, acorns, berries and small rosettes are strung at intervals along a carved ribbon which runs from top to bottom centre of the frame, only interrupted by the spreading acanthus leaves at the corners. It is of particular interest because it retains much of its original silver-leaf finish (possibly sealed with a slightly tinted lacquer).

 The style came to Britain in the 1660s, where it was also used – as in France – as an ornamental moulding to decorate the interior of a room. Silver furniture and wooden items finished with silver leaf became fashionable in London at about the same time, brought back from the French court by the restoration of Charles II to the British throne. Louis XIV had begun to collect solid silver furniture in 1664, eventually accumulating 167 pieces (none of which survive); and although Charles lacked the resources to emulate the French monarch, he commissioned his court silversmith to make wooden furniture which was wrapped in sheets of silver decorated with embossed repoussé-work.1


John Michael Wright (1617-1694), Portrait of a lady in a white dress, Oil on canvas, 74 x 61.5 cm., Sotheby’s, 14 April 2011, Lot 67 ; montaged with lot 67

The less well-off (like Samuel Pepys)2 had their picture frames finished with silver-leaf, which enabled them to imitate court fashion at a cost even less than with gold-leaf. However, the silver tarnished rapidly in rooms heated by wood and coal fires and where men were constantly smoking pipes, and so these frames were frequently gilded over, their beautiful and unusual finish lost to time and pollution. Finding one similar to the frame on Pepys’s own portrait opens the opportunity to give a contemporary, unframed portrait a new lease of decorative life.

William Nicholson (1872-1949), Urn and flowers on a table, 1914, oil on canvas, 65 x 82 cm., Sotheby’s, 30 June 2021, Lot 233 ; montaged with lot 67

However, this rather uncommon ornamental frame might be used to give equally exciting, new life to a more modern painting: imagine it framing a flowerpiece by William Nicholson, whose ability to paint silverware parallels the ability of Netherlandish still-life painters, thus bringing this fashion of silvered Louis XIII-style garland frames round in a satisfying circle.

This is one of the select group of Italian frames in the sale, and is a colourful contrast to the British silvered frame, with its painted tortoiseshell finish and wreath of gilded bay leaves. It is a Baroque style, with the highest point of the frame nearest the picture surface, the rest of the frame stepping back towards the wall; this profile pushes the painting out towards the viewer, highlighting it against the generally opulent, busy and colourful background of a Baroque interior.


Orazio Gentileschi (1563-1639), Head of a saint, Oil on canvas, 64 x 47 cm., Sotheby’s, 3 July 2007, Lot 499 ; montaged with Lot 129

 Here it is shown around a work by Orazio Gentileschi, the sculptural, volumetric style of the painted head echoed in the dynamic form of the frame and the contrasts of light and shade it creates; the warm colouring of the polychrome and gilded finish also harmonizes with the flesh tints of the painting.


Lot 133 is also Italian but a far more magnificent production, with its swooping spirals of elongated acanthus leaves and a vine of naturalistically carved flowers. The flair with which the leaves are conjured along each rail is reminiscent of carvings produced in the circle of Bernini, or under the influence of his designs; and it must have been made either for a grand portrait, or, more likely, for a sacred subject.

Above it is shown with a contemporary image of the Madonna reading to the Christ Child, with St Joseph in the background. The small flowers carved at intervals between the spiralling acanthus leaves include those with symbolic religious meanings: roses, the flower of the Madonna, daisies for humility, sunflowers for the sun-like figure of Christ, paeonies for resurrection.


 Here is another Baroque frame, but very different from the sculptural Roman frame in Lot 20. This has wide, gentle ogee, decorated with minutely-detailed shallow-relief strapwork in the Bérainesque style of late 17th -early 18th century France. Jean Bérain the elder (1640-1711) was employed at the French court from 1674, producing designs everything from interior boiseries, tapestries and the carvings on the king’s ships, to theatrical costumes, the decoration of furniture and silverware.3


Tortoiseshell casket inlaid with brass in Bérainesque style, c.1715, Sotheby’s Paris, 30 June 2016, Lot 20

Engravings of his designs spread his style across Europe, and were responsible for interiors where every item within, from the decorative woodwork to the carpets, door furniture, tables and cabinets, was integrated and harmonized – and where picture frames in the same style bound the paintings they contained to the room in which they hung.

His printed designs were imitated closely in the ornament of Louis XIV frames, with the strapwork carved in low-relief and contrasting with textured backgrounds incised into the gesso ground, between the wood and the gold leaf


Images from left to right: Pierre-Antoine Lemoine (1605-65), Nature morte aux raisins, Sotheby’s Paris, 26 March 2015, Lot 8; montaged with Lot 20 . Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Femme assise sur un balcon, 1920-21, o/c, 46.2 x 37.7 cm., Sotheby’s New York, 16 May 2023, Lot 130 ; montaged with Lot 20 .

Lot 20 is notable for the delicacy of its carved ornament and the variety of its textured grounds; it is a beautiful piece of sculpture in itself, but would make the perfect setting for paintings from its own or more recent periods.


Lot 41 : a handsome French Régence carved giltwood frame, early 18th century, 80.6 x 64.1 x cm.; concave profile; with acanthus leaf-tip at the back edge; scrolling foliate corners with floral paterae roundels, and scrolling foliate and shell centres, on a punched ground; a knulled chain at the top edge; strapwork lozenge demi-centres on a hatched ground and trailing roses-à-tiges on a cross-hatched ground in the hollow; sanded frieze; acanthus leaf and bud on a hatched ground at the sight edge; montaged with Hyacinthe Rigaud (after; 1659-1743), Louis XV as a child, c.1716, in its Régence frame, Metropolitan Museum, New York

The Régence style comes between the all-over calligraphic decoration of Louis XIV frames, and the large sculptural corners and centres of Louis XV frames. Frames from this period have a straight back and top edge, and the decoration shrinks back along the rail towards the corners; they also tend to have ornamental round or oval paterae in the corners, and sometimes small strapwork motifs breaking the plainness of the rails. This one has textured grounds to the corners, centres, and the hollows along the rails, contrasting with the burnished areas to produce a subtle flicker of light and movement. It could happily be used to frame a portrait by Rigaud, Largillierre, or one of their peers.

 The Rococo style as it developed in Italy was much less robust than the French version – far less sculptural and three-dimensional, and generally with fewer sinewy corner and centre ornaments. The best-known Rococo patterns used in 18th century Italy are panel frames, with delicately carved floral sprays in the corners and centres, between shaped mirrored panels (i.e. smoothly gilded plain areas); but there are other designs, like the ‘labbretto’ (little lips) pattern used by the artist Gaetano Gandolfi and his circle.


Gaetano Gandolfi (1734-1802), Head of an old man, o/c, 40 x 28.5 cm., Sotheby’s Paris, 14 June 2022, Lot 72

This is a rather beautiful example of one of Gandolfi’s ‘labbretto’ frames, with its regular scalloped leaf-tip moulding creating a subtle pattern of light and shade around the painting, and none of the swirling insistence of a French or German Rococo frame.

The ‘labbretto’ frame of Gaetano Gandolfi’s Head of an old man, montaged with details from the Italian Rococo frame in Lot 149

Its influence on other Italian Rococo patterns is clear: the shaped sight edge of Lot 149 and the scalloped leaves which decorate its main hollow, corners and centres are all in the same delicate, rippling manner.

Francesco Guardi (follower of; 1712-93), Piazza San Marco and the Campanile, o/c, 61.9 x 95.3 cm., Sotheby’s New York, 25 May 2022, Lot 42 ; montaged with lot 149

This is a style of frame which would marry perfectly with Guardi’s paintings: their torn, wind-blown clouds, scatterings of 18th century Venetians, insubstantial, airy palaces and playful capriccios.


French NeoClassical frames demonstrate a complete break with the curved rails and ornamental corners of the Rococo. They also habitually use applied moulded plaster for small repetitive runs of decoration, instead of overall carving for every element and motif; this had been viewed as almost a sub-criminal practice since a court-case in 1722 over composition ornament employed on frames and had staggered in and out of legality until the mid-century. From the 1760s, however, it was accepted that making plaster ornament was part of the framemaker’s technique, helped by the fact that the plaster used in France was sharply-defined and long-lasting. The frame above is a pattern-book example of a Louis XVI frame, with its linear form, flat rails, scotia and plain frieze. A practically identical version, original to Joseph Vernet’s Le midi ou la calme, 1770, is held in the collection of the Musée de la Marine, Paris.5

 Lot 57 is particularly interesting for the ornamental spandrels at the top of the frame, with their classical leafy paterae held in acanthus leaves. The arched form created was probably used for a sacred painting – perhaps of the Madonna and Child. It is also interesting because it has been signed on the back by the maker, Claude Pepin, although the stamp ‘JME’ is not visibl (‘Jurand Menuisiers Ebenistes’, the official body of the cabinetmakers’ and joiners’ guild). Pepin became a maître menuisier or master joiner in January 17756, and died in 17827, giving an unusual fixed span of time for the making of a frame which has come adrift from its original, and possibly dated, painting.

 Most frames in the Empire style, which Napoleon’s conquests had helped to spread through Europe, are in this double scotia (or hollow) form popularized by Jacques-Louis David, who became a sort of official artist to the Revolution and Empire. They often have alternating anthemia or honeysuckle flowers and palmettes in the upper scotia, although David himself varied this with different motifs: palmettes with masks of Zeus and sprigs of acorns and oak leaves (The anger of Achilles, 1819, Kimbell Art Museum)8, and anthemia with wreaths of bay leaves (The farewell of Telemachus and Eucharis, 1818, Getty Museum).9 Paintings by David’s peers also use the Napoleonic bee on their frames (Gérard, Napoleon in coronation robes, c.1805, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal). 10


Images from left to right: Details of the nike and the central modillion from the Arc de Triomphe. Photo: Thesupermat . French School, 19th century, Portrait of Napoleon, o/c, 67.5 x 56 cm., Sotheby’s New York, 24 April 2013, Lot 64 ; montaged with lot 65 .

The frame in Lot 65 has a very unusual decoration, consisting of sunbursts of palm leaves (appropriately for Napoleon), echoing the palm leaf carried by the Victory on the Arc de Triomphe – although they may also be elongated bay leaves, like those in the emperor’s coronation crown.11

It may well have been designed to frame one of the numerous images of Napoleon which proliferated from his consulate onwards, surrounding him with a shimmer of leaves like sunrays; but it would be equally suitable, and stunning, for any 19th century European portrait.


Dorothea Sharp (1873-1955), Sunflowers, o/board, 61 x 49.5 cm., Sotheby’s London, 12 July 2018, Lot 91 ; montaged with lot 65

It could also very effectively frame a much more modern work: perhaps one where the sunbursts of leaves around the hollow would reflect the painted subject, as in this 20th century picture of sunflowers by Dorothea Sharp.

Lot 51 is a trophy frame for the portrait of a 19th century noble, whose symbolic headgear would have occupied the cushion at the top centre: a crown for a king or queen, prince or princess; a coronet for (in British hierarchy) dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, barons and their wives.

J. Ballin after H.B. Olrik, Alexandra Princess of Wales, standing and holding a rose, engraving, 71.2 x 50.4 cm, Wellcome Collection, no. 570680i ; montaged with Lot 51

However, it is also a relatively small frame, intended as a spectacular means to display a watercolour, drawing or print of a royal lady or peeress – either a bust-length portrait, or - more probably - a full-length piece, as above, which suits the proportions of the ornament better. This montage also includes the restoration of the small crown at the crest. The frame bears the same relationship to large trophy frames for life-size oil portraits as does a miniature or, from later in the 19th century, a photograph frame. The Rococo style and decoration make it slightly more likely that it was intended for a female sitter, although the portrait of a male figure is also possible.


This is an opulent 19th century portrait frame, designed for an aristocratic or wealthy sitter, painted at a much larger scale than the portrait which would have filled the previous frame. It makes full use of a number of techniques available for decorating such an object, from the shaped mouldings and sight edge, the linear contour and sanded corners, the large central torus moulding with an incised and burnished flowering vine on a matte ground, the carved crest with applied rocailles and leaves, and other moulded ornament (shells and florets in the corners, spiralling acanthus leaves, and foliate sight edge). It might be called a ‘Winterhalter-style frame’ by analogy with other works by Franz Winterhalter and his circle - the portraitist of choice of European courts in the middle two quarters of the 19th century. 12

Studio of Franz Xaver Winterhalter, The young Queen Victoria, oil on canvas, 128 x 95.9 cm., The National Gallery of Art, Washington, no. 1954.3.1 ; montaged with Lot 124

A montage made with a portrait of Queen Victoria shows how fitting this frame is for a painting in the style of Winterhalter; it contrasts richness of finish with a simple linear structure, echoing the tension between the white dress and the elaboration of satin and lace.

There are many other interesting, beautiful and useful frames in this second collection from the Richard Green Gallery; they will be sold online from 4th to 10th April.





5 Paul Mitchell & Lynn Roberts, A history of European picture frames, 1996, fig. 32j, p. 45

6 Edgar Harden, ‘Identifying the framemakers of 18th century Paris’, NPG website (Research programmes: The art of the picture frame)
7 Neil Jeffares, ‘Inventors, writers, suppliers and copyists: P’, Pastels and pastellists




12 Franx Xaver Winterhalter (1805-73), Portrait of Thérèse Freifrau von Bethmann, 1850,; Circle of Winterhalter, Portrait of a young woman, 97 x 80 cm.,; Anais Potonie, Marie Potonie, 1852, 132 x 109 cm, 

Old Master Paintings

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