National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Not on display
James Bourlet 17 Nassau Street & 12 Union Mews Middlesex Hospital, London. W 1
The frame is built from three principal wooden sections, which are mitred at the corners. The central section is a flat, which would more commonly be veneered but is here finished with a smooth, satin finish gold leaf. The outer section carries four sections of composition ornament. The third section, which forms the sight edge, carries another run of cast leaves, which are centred on all sides. The flat is braced into the structure with blocks at intervals along the sides and across the corners. The whole surface appears to be gilded with gold leaf and finished with a matte size. The gilding is sufficiently strong to almost hide the intersections of the leaves, particularly on the flat.
The frame is in good original condition. The surfaces have not been reworked. There are a number of losses in the composition sections, particularly the run of leaves near the sight edge.
The frame is in the style of a Watts frame, though here we see it in a variant form using a smooth flat. The Watts frame was a popular style, named after the painter G. F. Watts, who used it extensively.2 It is to be found on paintings over an extended period and in various forms. The surface of this frame is very similar in finish to another frame by Bourlet in the collection, the frame on Frank Walton’s ‘Summer has gone on swallows wings.’
1 Bourlet was an early supplier of frames to the Gallery. The NGV’s ‘Accounts from Europe’, 1 Volume, PROV 5872 notes: paid J Bourlett (sic) £13.18 for picture frames (20/3/1869). We have no record of which frames these were. A further £30.8.2 was paid to A. T. Thomson (20/10/1869) for picture frames; both frame maker and frames remain unknown to us. As late as 21 January 1949 there is an account for sixteen picture frames from James Bourlet & Sons, to the value of £141/3/– (again the pictures are not itemised) and Bourlet was suggested in 1950 as a source of a frame for a Rembrandt portrait. I am grateful to Liana Fraser for this reference (from research carried out in various archives for the Conservation Department in 1995).
2 See entries under W. A. Smith for two examples of Watts frames on paintings by the artist.