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July 20th, 2008

Daniel Pontius

Acanthus as an ornamental motif developed not from nature, but from precedent. The motif developed from craftsperson to craftsperson changing over time and stylized far from the actual leaf, Acanthus mollis.

This frame at the Getty is a fine example of the Acanthus motif.– made by Jean Chérin.

Chérin was unusual because he was one of two who were Guild member of carpenters’ and cabinet makers’ in the mid 1700’s–unusual because dues were high and apprentice time was long.  But this is how the frame is identified as it should be stamped  on the back with his mark from both guilds.

This frame in the rococo style –asymmetrical in it’s details but overall balanced to the eye–the  center motif is a shell with acanthus scroll leaf; similar to the one at the bottom center. A corner cabochon with leaf scrolling outward meets in the center of the vertical sides. Around the perimeter are simplified rocaille or seeds with the occasional leaf growing out interrupting the rhythm. It all illustrates a main intention of the rococo which was to force the eye to travel from one point to another never resting on a particular spot for very long.

Update 8/21/12. Book recommendations:

1. Frameworks: Form, Function and Ornament in European Portrait Frames, by Mitchell & Roberts–if you can find is excellent.
2. The Frame in America 1700-1900 A Survey of Fabrication Techniques and Styles, by William Adair–with whom I took a gilding workshop several years ago near Hearst Castle.
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