Saturday, February 13, 2010
Don't be Fooled by the Frame
Several years ago, I attended a local auction in which a lovely little sketch was being offered for sale. It was obviously something very old - 17th or 18th century - and clearly by the hand of a master. It had only one "drawback" (no pun intended) ... it was framed in a modern oversized white metal frame with big white matting.
To the inexperienced eye, it looked like something new, and not worthy of the $35 starting bid. To me, it sang out "buy me, buy me!" Which is exactly what I did. For the starting bid. I rushed home, and could hardly contain my excitement as I "freed" my little lady from her modern aluminum "prison." What I held in my hands was an early red crayon sketch by who, at the time, I thought was Jean Antoine Watteau (not least because the name 'WATTEAU' was written in pencil on the back).
I was thrilled when I saw that it was indeed red crayon on vellum, and I had a local museum expert confirm that the materials were true to the period. After much research that led nowhere, I was able to contact the leading expert on Watteau, Mr. Pierre Rosenberg, once president-director of the Louvre, and co-author of the amazing catalogue of Watteau's drawings, who was kind enough to confirm that while it was an authentic 18th c. sketch, it was, in his opinion, not by Watteau, but possibly by Augustin de Saint-Aubin. Good enough! Especially for the "huge" investment I had in this little treasure.
The moral of the story? Never be fooled into thinking that a painting is not as old as you might have thought, just because it is housed in a contemporary frame. Or vice versa, if you're in the market for antique frames.