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  • Writer's pictureVertu Art + Design


Updated: Mar 29

Today is the birth date of Lady Agnew, painted here in John Singer Sargent’s 'Lady Agnew of Lochnaw' (1865 - 1932), 1892.

Picture Frames are a unique tool to research the provenance of the artworks they house. they can make or break an artwork's presentation, so many artists saw picture frames as important extensions of their work.

This casual photo for research purposes was recently taken, while visiting the National Gallery in Scotland. There is some excitement about this picture soon coming to the US (first stop: The Frick Collection in New York, 2015).  My interest in this piece is something often overlooked by art specialists: the picture frame. At the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I conducted the most extensive museum picture frame survey to date. The survey allowed me the opportunity to take into account 5,000 works of fine (paintings) and decorative art (frames), which increased my knowledge of the two inter-working disciplines, leading me ultimately to pursue such intersections, along with science, at the University of Toronto.

Frames are a unique tool to research the provenance of the artworks they house. A branch of cabinetmaking, picture frames were crafted to the same high standard as the commodes and tables one finds today in major museum collections. This frame, like many in the museum survey, is an outstanding example of eighteenth-century cabinetwork. The painter Sargent often employed antique frames for his society portraits. In a letter to Sir Agnew about this portrait the artist wrote: 'Today I saw an old frame which I think might suit the picture.'  The elegant decorative quality of the frame mirrors the brilliant textiles and sitter herself.  This portrait ensured Lady Agnew’s debut as a society beauty.  We are sure she, with her direct stare and nonchalant pose, intrigues modern viewers just as she did in 1892. 

Original Post: June 16, 2014

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