Dating antique picture frames

Copt Hall became one of the chief Dorset residences, though the 6th Earl of Dorset was considering selling the house at least as early as 1693 to meet his mounting debts.Finally in June 1701 the estate was sold and the contents moved to Knole.Many of the pictures now at Knole were collected by Lionel Cranfield, 1st Earl of Middlesex, Lord Treasurer to James I and owner of Copt Hall in Essex from about 1623.His daughter, Frances Cranfield, married the future 5th Earl of Dorset in 1637 and it was through this marriage that Copt Hall came into the possession of the Earls of Dorset following the death of the 3rd Earl of Middlesex in 1674.Papier-mâché was first used in this way in the 17th century.It was, however, the introduction of compo, a composition of whiting, glue, resin and linseed oil, which drove out the carved frame.Another document, a bill dating perhaps to the late 1630s, is damaged and so lacks the supplier's name. Phillips in 1929 under his entry for Daniel Mytens but a reference contained within it to a double portrait of Lady Leicester and Lady Carlisle, surely a Van Dyck type, indicates a date in the late 1630s or even the early 1640s. During Charles I's reign elaborately carved and gilt frames became the fashion in court circles.

Water gilding was a more time-consuming process and required a special preparation of clay (the 'bole') which provided the firm, smooth foundation necessary for the gilding to be burnished, or polished.Elaborately carved frames were time-consuming to make.It was cheaper to produce ornament by pressing a pliable material, such as papier-mâché or compo, in a mould, and then setting it on a wooden framework.Compo became popular in the 1790s and dominated framemaking in the 19th century.It allowed for larger and more richly ornamented frames but its fragility proved a drawback.

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