Old Masters take center stage in NY next week

On June 5, Christie’s will hold it’s midseason Old Masters sale, featuring many 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings.  One of the highlights will be The Duet, by Gerrit van Honthorst (1592 – 1656), which is estimated to sell for between $2,000,000 and $3,000,000.

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Gerrit van Honthorst (Utrecht 1592-1656), The Duet, oil on canvas
30¾ x 37¼ in.

The sale will also include a varied selection of paintings from Italian, French, British, German/Austrian and Spanish schools.

Uptown at Sotheby’s, the Old Masters sale will be held on June 6.  Offerings will range from Early Northern and Italian paintings to 18th century.  One highlight will be the recently discovered A Praying Monk, by the 16th-century Flemish painter Jan Massys, estimated to sell for between $100,000 and $150,000.

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Jan Massys (Antwerp circa 1509), A Praying Monk, oil on oak panel in an engaged frame,
13 5/8 x 11 in.

Frame of the Week

This week’s featured frame is a 17th century Italian ebonized cassetta frame with gilded front.

The cassetta frame was developed in Italy during the late 15th century, and its classic design has been used consistently since the 17th century throughout Europe and later in America.  The construction is usually comprised of a flat panel or frieze with applied raised inner and outer moldings.

Shaped like a box (in fact, cassetta means “little box”), the cassetta, or plate frame could incorporate many different kinds of decoration, including gilding, faux-marble, pastiglia, punchwork and sgrafitto – the process of scratching a design onto a surface.

Recently, Lowy made four replicas of this frame for Sotheby’s to be paired with the four panels of Sebastiaen Vrancx’ Allegories of the Seasons, all oil on panel.  The paintings are estimated to be sold for between $300,000 and $500,000 at the upcoming Old Masters sale on June 6.

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Sebastiaen Vrancx, (1573-1647), Allegories of the Seasons, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, 10 5/8 x 14 3/4 “, oil on panel, courtesy of Sotheby’s

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Sebastiaen Vrancx, (1573 – 1647), was a Flemish Baroque painter and etcher of the Antwerp school whose paintings hang in the Louvre, Hermitage and fine art museums throughout the world.

For more information on our Italian cassetta frames and any of the 5000 frames in Lowy’s collection, please visit www.lowyonline.com or call 212-861-8585.

Frame of the Week

This week’s featured frame is a 20th century American carved and gilt frame of reverse profile in the Taos style made by the Newcomb-Macklin Company.

Image 20th century American carved and gilt frame made by the Newcomb Macklin Co.

The artists Ernest Blumenschein, Bert Phillips, Eanger Irving Couse, Herbert S. Dunton, Joseph Henry Sharp and Oscar Berninghaus formed the Taos Society of artists in 1915.  These artists came from the eastern United States and Europe and blended their experiences with native American influences to create a new style. 

Couse and Sharp are known to have designed their own frames.  These frames resembled other early 20th century ones made by prominent frame makers in Boston and New York.  However, the carved designs bring to mind indigenous Native American motifs and the roughly hewn chiseled texture of the panels give them a less polished flavor, giving them a distinctive Southwestern flavor. Newcomb-Macklin was one of several companies known to make frames for Taos artists employing similar designs.

Lowy consigned this frame to Sotheby’s recently as it was the perfect match for Joseph Henry Sharp’s The War Bonnet.  The painting was estimated to be sold for between $120,000 and $180,000, with the winning bid coming in at $257,000 at yesterday’s Arts of the American West auction.

For more information on our Arts & Crafts frames and any of the 5000 frames in Lowy’s collection, please visit www.lowyonline.com or call 212-861-8585.

This Friday & Saturday: 18th Annual American Arts Conference

Initiatives in Art & Culture is hosting the 18th annual American Art Conference this Friday and Saturday at The Graduate Center, City University of New York on Fifth Avenue.

This year’s conference, entitled Reclaiming American Art, explores artists from 1700 through the 1930’s and beyond now obscure yet who should be re-evaluated, as well as periods in the oeuvres of well-known artists that have been eclipsed by the changing cycles of taste. As each generation of dealers, scholars and collectors emerges, new research is done and new works are discovered — sometimes languishing in the basements of great institutions — and these once-forgotten works resonate as they are brought in tune in new ways with contemporary time and place.

ImageThomas Le Clear, The Itinerants, oil on canvas, 25¼ x 40 in.
Private collection; photo, courtesy, Debra Force Fine Art.

This exploration leads to a consideration of the forces that impact shifts in taste including the market place, museums (through exhibitions and collecting), individual collectors, dealers and the critical establishment. Additional factors that play a role in defining who is part of any given era’s cannon of American art include the amount of work an artist leaves or does not leave behind, the diversity of the artist’s work, as well as the company he or she kept. Each is an important factor in how an artist’s work has been assessed over time.

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Edmund Lewandowski, Wisconsin Ore Freighter, 1948; oil on canvas, 42 x 30¾ in.  Collection of the Milwaukee Art Museum, gift of Gimbel Bros., Milwaukee, M1959.

The roster of speakers includes:

– William Gerdts, American art historian and Professor Emeritus of Art History at the CUNY Graduate Center

– Betsy Kornhauser, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Curator, American Wing

– Thayer Tolles, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Associate Curator of American Paintings and Sculpture

– Charles Brock, The National Gallery of Art, Associate Curator of American and British Paintings

– Lance Mayer and Gay Myers, conservators of paintings

– William Agee, Evelyn Kranes Kossak, Hunter College, CUNY

Attendees are invited to Lowy on Friday night from 6 to 8 pm for cocktails and a tour of the frame atelier and conservation studio.

For more information about the conference or to register, interested parties can call (646) 485-1954, or via email to info@artinitiatives.com.  Registration can be done online by visiting http://www.acteva.com/go/americanart.

Featured Frame of the Week

This week’s featured frame is an Arts & Crafts frame from 1905 made by Charles Prendergast.  Not only was this American an artist and frame maker, but he was also a skilled craftsman, carver and gilder.

The frame was made during the Arts and Crafts movement in America, when artists and frame makers began to value craftsmanship and design over mass production and heavy ornamentation.  Frames were once again being hand-carved and crafted as they had been in the 17th and 18th centuries, instead of factory-made and cast in plaster as was the custom in the 19th century.  Prendergast was one of the first to return to hand-carving.

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Antique Arts & Crafts frame by Charles Prendergast, 1905

On the verso, the frame is signed and dated “Prendergast 1905”.  Like other early 20th century American frame makers, Prendergast felt his frames were works of art in themselves worthy of being signed.

Prendergast began making frames as early as 1895 at the age of 32 and joined his friend Hermann Dudley Murphy, another artist-frame maker, in forming the Carrig-Rohane frame shop in Winchester, Massachusetts, in 1903.  They moved the shop to Boston in 1905 where they were joined by the woodcarver, Walfred Thulin.  The extent of Prendergast’s involvement in the shop is not clear, but this frame may have been made there.

Prendergast traveled to Italy in 1898 and was greatly influenced by what he saw there; he especially loved Venice.  This frame resembles a classic Venetian carved frame with an ogee profile dating from the early 18th century sometimes referred to as a “Canaletto” frame.  It features intermittently spaced floral carvings alternating with plain burnished “mirror” panels.  Prendergast also uses the Italian technique of punchwork, or bulinatura, around the floral carvings, and an Italianate foliate front ornament.  Hermann Dudley Murphy used this frame style as well and was also influenced in many of his designs by Italian techniques and ornamentation.

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Detail of the frame by Prendergast

Interestingly, the major ornamentation of this frame design is located in the panels; the corners as well as two of the centers are left plain burnished gold.  This is in contrast to how frames were usually designed in 18th century Italy, when the most decorative part of the ornamentation was nearly always placed in the corners and centers.  The ornament on the outside edge of the frame is also a modern sort of squiggle carving instead of a more classic gadroon or lamb’s tongue.  These changes are characteristic of the quirkiness and naïveté expressed in the frames of Prendergast and his contemporaries, and are part of what makes the frame especially unique.

The frame was executed in a simple, clean style and finished with a brightly burnished gold.  This is in contrast with many other frames designed by Prendergast which are either more roughly carved with a receding profile in the Spanish style or featuring incised designs and a more muted or rubbed finish on a cassetta profile.  The style of this frame has more in common with the frames of Thulin and Murphy made at this time than with many of the frames designed by Prendergast.  However, with its refined and beautifully executed design, it is in keeping with the ideas of the artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

For more information on our Prendergast frames and any of the 5000 frames in Lowy’s collection, please visit www.lowyonline.com or call 212-861-8585.

Lowy frames a Messiah

Messiah, by Alexander Kanevsky, is a bold work whose power emanates not only from the central figure appearing in a burst of energizing color but the viewer also feels the palpable emotions of the crowd below.  The painting therefore requires a frame that matches its intensity.

ImageLowy selected an Italian scotia frame, carved in oak and then gilded.  This frame is a fine example of the Renaissance revival style found frequently in the second half of the 19th century in Italy. 

In spite of the development of the mass-produced cast composition frames of the early 19th century, Italian sculptors continued to hand-carve fine frames in traditional or revival styles for those who could afford them with Florence being the epicenter for this work.

The cove of this frame is filled with a continuous deeply carved and undercut scrolling grape vine ornamented with various fruits. Vine leaves are a symbol of Christ and can be seen carved in stone onto many Gothic cathedrals.  The scrolling vine motif was adopted from architectural prototypes such as the continuous ornamentation used on the frieze of classical entablatures. The motif was frequently used on frames during the Renaissance because of the significant symbolism and decorative potential.  The scrolling vine could be incised, punched, or carved in high relief.

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From the Renaissance styling and added elemental corners reminiscent of tabernacle frames to the scrolling vine leaves representing Christ, this is a perfect example of how frames and art can complement each other and how deliberate ornamentation of a frame can amplify powerful imagery.

To find out how Lowy can customize a frame for your painting, or for more information on the 5000 antique frames in Lowy’s current inventory, visit www.lowyonline.com or call 212-861-8585.