A nearly identical but unlabelled frame appears on von Guérard’s Mr Clark’s station, Deep Creek, near Keilor , 1867 (A2-1986). Whitehead frames are often associated with von Guérard’s paintings but the style is not unique to Whitehead. Examples by Stevens (Melbourne) and Vokins (London) are generically similar in style and construction. The frame carries a label centre bottom and there is also an inscription, Isaac Whitehead, in pencil on the stretcher, right edge, which may indicate Whitehead was the supplier of the stretched canvas. The frame is well proportioned and the near central positioning of the torus gives the frame a balance which differentiates it from more classical forms. The frieze pattern is seen on other frames by Whitehead.4 Among English frames which might serve as models for the type brought to Melbourne by Whitehead, we can look to the frame on Ophelia by John Everet Millais, in Tate Britain, thought to date from the end of the 1850s or early 1860s.5
1 The absence of an address on the label leaves the dating open. The frame is believed to be contemporary with the date of the painting, 1866. There are, however, a number of paintings which entered the collection in the 1860s but which were framed some years later.
2 This shaping of the slip has precedents in Pre-Raphaelite frames, though it is more often arched rather than curved. We might also look to the ‘framing’ of photographs, particularly stereoscopic views.
3 The nearly identical but unlabelled frame, logically attributed to Whitehead, on von Guérard’s Mr Clark’s station Deep Creek, near Keilor, 1867 (A2-1986), shows a mixture of matte and burnished water gilding.
4 See for reference Anna Maria Espinoza, ‘A Framemaker of Colonial Melbourne: Isaac Whitehead c. 1819–1881’, in vol. 1, Frames, Melbourne Journal of Technical Studies in Art, University of Melbourne Conservation Service, 1999. pp. 33–48.
5 Reproduced in Joyce H Townsend, Jacqueline Ridge & Stephen Hackney, Pre-Raphaelite Painting Techniques: 1848–56, Tate Publishing, 2004, p.134.
The frame uses both machine rolled and moulded composition ornaments on a wooden chassis. The basic wooden form is mitred at the corners. The working edge and the rebate edge are extended by the additions of wooden battens. The flat at the leading edge, which carries the torus and is shaped with a cavetto on either side, is a separate timber section. The top corners of the slip carry infill sections to form a curve either side at the sight edge.2
The basic forms of the frame are intact. It had been re-coated and patinated with no respect for the original surface and was cleaned in 2004.3