Original, by the Artistic Stationery Company, Melbourne
This is the only frame in the collection positively identified as by the Artistic Stationery Company, who we know more commonly as artists’ colourmen. Their stencil is found on the reverse of canvases by Melbourne painters of the late nineteenth century.4 Though the company is only listed as a frame maker for the years 1892–4, it traded as a colourman for many years. The firm also carried the name Buxtons. The frame is extraordinary in its style and relationship to the painting. The frieze ornament consists of bows, putti, seraphim, clouds, urns and medallions with figures. It owes its look to a mixture of Renaissance and Pre-Raphaelite influences. It is one of a group of frames sold by the Gallery as a job lot in 1941 and was re-acquired from the monastery of The Benedictine Community of New Norcia Inc. in 2000. The painting is shown in this frame in a photograph from London, 1923.5 Though only fragments of the label remain the company is clearly identified: ARTISTIC STATIONERY .… PRINTERS AND ENGRAVERS. The address is intact.
1 Hilary Maddocks, ‘Picture Framemakers in Melbourne c. 1860–1930’ in vol. 1, Frames, Melbourne Journal of Technical Studies in Art, University of Melbourne Conservation Service, 1999.
2 A very similar, though incomplete, frame cross-section is found on a frame by T. S. Glassier & Co, dateable to 1906-09, currently in storage.
3 The restoration of the frame was carried out by Justin Gare, working in the studio of Frames and Furniture conservation at the NGV.
4 Artistic Stationery Co. stencils appear on the reverse of: Tom Roberts’s Mentone, 1887 (A12-1980), Mrs L. A. Abrahams, 1888 (1650-4), Portrait of Loiuse Dyer, 1888, (4647-3); Charles Conder’s Rickett’s Point, 1890 (2909-4); Frederick McCubbin’s Summer sea, 1895(A06-1988); Arthur Streeton’s Portrait of Marshall Hall (1615-5); John Longstaff’s Gippsland Sunday Night, 1898 (48-2) and Walter Withers’ Evening on the Yarra, Eaglemont, 1887 (A11-1978).
5 Photograph from the exhibition Society of Artists, Exhibition of Australian Art, October 1923, Burlington House (from the archive of the Art Gallery of New South Wales).
Artistic Stationery Company 119-121 Swanston Street, Melbourne
The flat carries an Italianate frieze of cast composition featuring putti. The construction is simple; the flat is mitred and sits on top of the outer section, which is mitred and nailed. The slip sits on top of the inner edge of the flat.2 The sections, though re-enforced with blocks, are not strongly assembled. The frieze section appears to have been originally at right angles to the back edge, the mitres having been cut square rather than bevelled. The composition casts are not crisp in definition and run as sections in one direction without centering the ornament. The ornament and inner slip have been finished with copper leaf on an oil base. The outer top edge and back edge are gilded with false gold.
The frame was found in a deteriorated state and questions remain about the intended appearance of the surface due to the considerable oxidation and deterioration of the metal surfaces and surface coatings. The frame was restored in 2001.3 A new slip, based on photographic evidence, was fabricated in 2002.