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Eighteenth-century Venetian painting was marked in part by a taste for large historical compositions in the manner of the sixteenth-century painter Paolo Veronese, with figures often dressed in Renaissance costume and set in a Venetian context. Sebastiano Ricci and Giambattista Tiepolo are the two eighteenth-century artists most closely associated with reinterpreting Veronese, and scholars have usually attributed this work to one or the other. The recent cleaning and restoration of this painting have confirmed its authorship by Tiepolo, despite the constraints of respecting Veronese’s original style having suppressed the lighter and more restless manner usually associated with this artist.
The frame on Tiepolo’s The Finding of Moses is currently thought to be English, dating to the late eighteenth century.
The painting was executed, in the manner of Paulo Veronese, by Giambatista Tiepolo around 1755. It appeared on the market in Venice in 1769, attributed to his brother, Benedetto Caliari, was acquired by John Stuart (3rd Earl of Bute) and appears in England c.1771. There are records of the transport of the painting out of Venice at that time but no mention of a frame. The painting remained in the Bute collection housed at Luton Park, Bedfordshire, until the sale of the collection by Christie’s of London 1822.
The frame mixes elements of English, William of Kent frames with seventeenth century Italian Mannerist and later Baroque forms. It is unlike Venetian frames of the eighteenth century and indirectly related to English frames of the same period. There are a number of frames of this type on paintings from the Bute collection.
The main plank of timber in The Finding of Moses frame construction is Baltic pine while the back edge ornament, the masks and foliate carving are from White pine. Though we might anticipate Italian frames using poplar as a timber, the use of pine in this frame does not preclude it being made in Italy. The corners are mortise and tenon joints that may once of been pinned with dowels. In recent years the structural integrity of the frame has been supported with a welded aluminium box section attached to the reverse for display. There are a number of layers on the surface of the frame but the ground layers appear to be calcium carbonate based. This most likely suggests an English rather than Italian origin for the frame.
On the left side sections of the bead course have been cut away to receive the mask while on the right side the mask sits on top of the bead course. Similarly parts of the mask lobes have been cut in some places and not in others. The sanding on the frieze extends under the masks. The foliate scrolls top and bottom and the bell forms above and below the masks seem curiously at odds with the masks and grotesques forming the other main ornamental devices. They may be later additions. The foliate scrolls appear on the Bute frames. Cross-sections indicate there may be a layer of gilding under the sanding of the frieze. All of this suggests the frame has been through a number of restorations and embellishments. The sanded frieze would seem more English than Italian.
The painting was cleaned and restored in 2009/10.
The association of the frame with those at Mount Stuart, made by Nicholas Penny in 2012, was critical in resolving the provenance of the painting.
Baltic pine, white pine, gold leaf
The frame has been re-surfaced and repaired.