THE WORLD OF SAMUEL MEEKER, MERCHANT OF PHILADELPHIA, AND GILBERT STUART, AMERICAN PORTRAIT ARTIST

Friday, September 4, 2009

tinker? tailor? soldier? spy? No! AN EXPERT !

a replica of the famous Landsdowne portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart 1796-97
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Sorry about how small the image is above, but you the reader will be barely able to make out the outlines of the frame around this portrait, topped by ornate patriotic national symbols (to honor the subject George Washington.) Now, compare that frame to the frame around Meeker as shown below. (Meeker of course is without the special topping.) But, what does one logically think? Naturally, the frame on my portrait originates from this particular time period, without a doubt. ('Choose a frame that also adorns Washington's portrait?' thought my ancestor, 'why, sounds like a great idea!') So one can logically make the conclusion that, unless a past family member of mine went to a whole bunch of trouble to have such a frame copied as shown above, it must be original. My past family (particular members who owned this portrait at one time or another) do not have a reputation for 'wasting/being lavish with money.' (About gt gt Aunt Emma {from Princeton, see entry June 4 09 and click on family tree image}, sister of Carrie who brought Meeker to California, the story is told that she counted her multitudes of silver every night before locking it up, afraid it seems that the tiniest little piece might be swiped.) When I saw the portrait above in the book "Gilbert Stuart", the MET edition by Carrie Barratt and Ellen Miles, and a bit later read " The late 18th century gold leaf portrait frame with 'a triple reeded top molding with cross straps occurring at 12” intervals, a plain deep cove, a bead and flat liner” went with painting directly from Bingham to the Pennsylvania Academy." I thought BINGO... ...its orginal.



Last weekend I wrote an expert, to see what he would say. Just out of curiosity. He is a conservator at Williamstown Art Conservation Center. He wrote back! That was nice, but I was....lets say, somewhat surprised!
***
Dear Beth
I have shared your pictures with colleagues at work. Based on the pictures the frame is not original. We take the painting to be late 18th early 19th century and it has been lined and fitted with a later stretcher. The cove frame with its reeding, bindings of ribbon, and small compo ornament is later. Your frame is still good for the portrait because it has some of the simplicity of early frames. We see it is gilded with gold leaf.

If you are local to us in Williamstown Mass you can bring it in so we can see it more clearly. I hope this helps. Let me know of any questions. Hugh
~
TO BE CONTINUED (hopefully, I have written him back)
~

3 comments:

Maureen said...

Hmmm, the plot thickens.

einbildungskraft said...

Its been thickening since the beginning, but I feel so fortunate to be in the middle of the ...plot.... :-) and neat to have a few readers who share my 'thusiasm
Sometimes I think I might run out of things to say, but never happens! happy weekending in Soho!

emikk said...

This plot is getting so-o-o thick I'm just about ready for the rubber room!

 
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