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  • Writer's pictureVertu Art + Design

The Framing of Lady Agnew

Updated: Aug 27

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

This casual photo for research purposes is one J. Franks recently took 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).  This picture exhibits a rare view of something often overlooked by art historians: the picture frame.  In 2006 Franks had the unique opportunity to conduct the most extensive museum picture frame survey to date; from the decorative art point of view, this was a furniture survey.  Frames, an important category of cabinetmaking, were crafted to the same high standard as the commodes and tables one finds today in major museums. For this survey, Franks highlighted many spectacular 18th-century French picture frames such as this example.  Apparently Sargent often employed antique frames for his society portraits. In a letter to Sir Agnew about this portrait Sargent 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. 

For a good read on Sargent’s pictures frames:

Original Post: June 16, 2014

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