Monday, September 14, 2009

Or, WAS the frame on the Meeker portrait purchased in the 1860s, ie. is not the original? Where was the portrait in the 1860s?

A FAMILY PHOTO circa 1901
Thomas Mulford Martin and wife Catherine (my gt gt grandparents) of RAHWAY NJ on the left, their daughter Carrie (my gt grandmother in the middle), husband Lewis from San Jose California (very right, gt grandfather), & their 5 children, my Pops is the youngest boy. Thomas would have been in possession of the portrait in the 1860s. The senior Martins are visiting my gt-grandparents in Fresno, California in this photo. Pops passed away in 1983, my mom lives here in Santa Cruz. She is 81 (see entry March 1 09 for a darling photo.)

The expert on American frames (and conservation) Hugh wrote me: "Then there is the question of whether the frame is American or an English import. Reeded top moldings with ribbon bindings occur in the UK around 1800, but I believe they are not generally popular here till circa 1860."

So, now I don't know whether the frame is English (possibly part of a Meeker shipment from Liverpool--->New Orleans---> Philadelphia?) or purchased later, ie an American frame, possibly when some repairs/conservation (relining) were done on the portrait? So let me take a closer look at the family, to see where the portrait would be at this particular time, in the 1860s. The portrait would now be with my gt gt grandfather Thomas Mulford Martin (1831-1917). He and his wife Mary Catherine (Ayers) and 3 daughters Carrie (my gt grandmother who married the Californian), Jennie (Jane), and Emma lived in Rahway New Jersey: the census of Union County NJ 1900 shows him to be a manufacturer of book bindings. Perhaps this elegant looking frame caught his eye, and wanting to refurbish the portrait he also changed the frame? Thomas was the grandson of Phebe Meeker, Samuel Meeker would have been his gt uncle.

Perhaps the gold leafing can tell us more?
One thing we can be certain of, the Meeker portrait was still in the East in the 1860s...

I just talked to Bill Adair, for about an hour on the phone. He is very knowledgeable on American frames.

A comment from William Adair, Gold leaf Studios, Washington, DC.
(goldleafstudios at
Hi, I think it is also a revival frame from the last quarter of the 19th century, it has no spline on the reverse, the width of the moulding is consistent with Victorian era frames, the painting has been relined, and other issues such as the fact that it is oil gilded lead me to the conclusion that it is a frame that is not original to the painting.
The frame is, most likely, Victorian! More info on the differences in the style of this particular frame (between English and American), will follow when Bill has the time to send me some scans.


Maureen said...

This is turning into a mystery novel.

Rouchswalwe said...

I'm always amazed at what experts know. And isn't it just as exciting to get a new question sometimes as it is to find an answer?!

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