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British picture framemakers, 1600-1950 - N

An online resource, launched in 2007, selectively updated twice yearly. Last updated September 2021. Contributions are welcome, to Jacob Simon at [email protected].

Introduction Resources and bibliography

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*Robert R. Nelson 1840-1846, 1853-1876 (not in business independently 1847-1852), Alfred Nelson 1877-1904, Alfred Nelson & Son 1904-1918 or later. At 32 Nicolson St, Edinburgh 1840-1846,27 South Hanover St by 1853-1867, 19 South Hanover St 1868-1902, street renumbered 1902, 37 South Hanover St 1903-1918 or later. Stationers, booksellers, printsellers, artists’ colourmen, carvers and gilders.

See British artists' suppliers on the National Portrait Gallery website.

Updated March 2014
Sefferin Nelson (active 1769, died 1797), Marshall St, Golden Square, London 1777-1788, 3 Marshall St by 1790-1795, 4 Carnaby Market 1784, Market Row, Carnaby Market 1789-1797, Carver and gilder.

Sefferin Nelson (1739-97), a leading carver and gilder, supplied interior carving and gilding work, as well as picture frames. He was christened at St Martin-in-the-Fields in 1739 (Roscoe 2009). He was apprenticed to Thomas Nicholl, citizen and salter, for a premium of £15 in 1754 and took Thomas Dandy as his own apprentice for a premium of £20 in 1775. He married Mary Benson in 1764 at St Mary Putney, and they had four children christened at St James Westminster between 1765 and 1781. His son, George, was apprenticed to Thomas White of the Farriers’ Company in 1792. Sefferin Nelson’s will, made 24 October 1795, was proved 18 May 1797. He was listed in rate books in Marshall St, 1777-88, and in Market Row (Carnaby Market), a continuation of Marshall St, 1789-97, and it remains to be ascertained as to whether Market Row was treated interchangeably as part of Marshall St or whether Nelson had more than one property.

Framing work: Nelson worked on various Robert Adam houses, including Shelburne House in 1769 (DEFM) and Kenwood House in 1773, carrying out Adam's designs for furnishings including frames for looking glasses. He undertook carving work for the 3rd Earl of Egremont, perhaps for Petworth, 1783-6. He was employed at Chatsworth and perhaps at Devonshire House in London in about 1784 and at Chiswick where he worked for the 5th Duke of Devonshire, receiving payment as ‘Nelson’ for two quarters to 31 December 1795 of the considerable sums of £240.17s for glass frame and £82.8s for picture frames (information from Charles Noble, see Sources below). He supplied two carved picture frames for views of the Elysian gardens at Audley End, 1789, and undertook gilding work at Audley End and in London for Sir John Griffin Griffin, supplying picture frames to Sir John's family as late as 1797 (DEFM).

Nelson worked at Carlton House, 1786-91 (DEFM; Geoffrey de Bellaigue, ‘The Crimson Drawing Room: Carlton House’, Furniture History, vol.26, 1990, p.10). He was listed in 1790 as carver, gilder and framemaker to the Prince of Wales. His trade card with the royal coat of arms from Marshal St described him as ‘Carver Gilder & Frame Maker to their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales & the Duke of Cumberland’, also offering ‘Upholstery in General’ (Victoria and Albert Museum, Print Room, E4733-1907, E985-1963). He produced carved picture frames, with 'French Strap leaf' and other ornament, for the Prince of Wales, 1792-3, for works by George Garrard and Richard Cosway (Millar 1969 p.44).

Sources: DEFM; Beard 1981 p.273; Geoffrey Beard, The Work of Robert Adam, 1978, p.22; Julius Bryant, The Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood, guidebook, 1990, pp.9, 11; West Sussex Record Office, Petworth House Archives,PHA/7539, 7541; Devonshire Archives, C/166 ms. Household Accounts, 1795, information kindly supplied by Charles Noble, April 2012.

J.D. Williams, Audley End: The Restoration of 1762-1797, Essex Record Office Publications, 1966, pp.39-40, 48. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

William Nicholls, seeRobert Cribb

*F.S. Nichols 1878-1881, F.S. Nichols & Co 1882-1885. At 12a Borough High St, London SE 1878-1881, 14 Borough High St 1882-1885, 12 Railway Approach SE 1885. Picture dealer, then packers and carriers of works of art, picture framemakers.

Frederick Searle Nichols (1834-1906) was born and died at Linton in Cambridgeshire. He was in partnership in a business of millers and corn and coal merchants in Essex in 1863 (London Gazette 12 January 1864). He set up as a picture dealer in London in 1878.The business advertised ‘Artistic or Florentine Carved Frames by the most skilful Workmen. Original Patterns in Mouldings’, offering 25% savings on West End prices and featuring ‘22 Carat Gold, either the ordinary or Lemon shade' (The Year’s Art 1883-4). The business was last listed in 1885, and by the following year Nichols had reverted to his former trade as a flour merchant from Bridge Chambers, 14 Borough High St. He died in 1906, leaving effects worth £4872, with probate granted to his widow Cornelia.

*Eugene Nicolas, 11 Great Titchfield St, London 1836-1872, 32 Great Titchfield St 1873. Carver and gilder, later a decorator.

Eugene Constantine Louis Nicolas (c.1811-1894) was born in Paris. He settled in London in his twenties and eventually took British nationality. By March 1836, he appears to have taken over the business of Joseph Crouzet (qv) at 11 Great Titchfield St. His name is sometimes found in directories as Nicholas, rather than Nicolas. His premises were damaged by fire in 1858 (The Times 19 April 1858). From successive censuses, we learn that Nicolas had become a British subject by 1861, that he described himself as a carver and gilder in 1841 and 1851 but as a decorator in 1861 and 1871 (employing eight men in 1861), retiring to Hammersmith by 1881. He died in the Fulham district in 1894, leaving effects worth £4654, with probate granted to Maria Victoria Nicholas, spinster.

Nicolas undertook framing work in 1836 and 1839 for one of William Etty's patrons, T. Wright of Upton Hall, who in 1836 refers to him as Mr Nicolai, describing the business as 'late Crouzet' (York Public Library, Etty letters nos 104, 207).

William Nixon by 1830-1835, Nixon & Son by 1837, Eliza Nixon by 1839, Charles Nixon by 1843-1862. At 5 Navigation St, Birmingham 1830-1841, 109½ New St by 1843-1847, 85 New St by 1849-1850, 10 Steelhouse Lane 1850-1862. Carver and gilder, picture and glass frame manufacturer, picture dealer and restorer.

See British picture restorers on this website.

*Thomas Noble, Fountain-well, 79 High St, Edinburgh 1814-1817, 92 High St 1818-1825, 13 Carrubber’s Close 1825-1830, 153 High St 1831-1834. Carver and gilder.

Thomas Noble (c.1772-1850) was apprenticed to James Liddle (qv) and became a Burgess in September 1809 (Charles Watson, ed., Roll of Edinburgh Burgesses… 1761-1841, Scottish Record Society, 1933, p.121). He appears to have traded initially in partnership with Smith Brand, as Brand & Noble, 1807-14, from 27 and 18 High St, Edinburgh. He then shared an address with Alexander Thomson (qv) at 79 High St, 1814-17, before moving to other addresses on or close to the High St (Houliston 1999 pp.71, 75). He married Joann Justice, daughter of John Justice, painter, in 1814. He would appear to be Thomas Noble, gilder, who was recorded at 24 Mid Arthur Place in the 1841 census, age 65 (ages were rounded down to the nearest five in the census). At his death in 1850 he was described as a carver and gilder, age 78, in the burial register.

Framing work: From his trade label, it would seem that Noble was willing to undertake a wide range of work: ‘Makes, in a variety of patterns Looking Glasses Picture-Frames, Chimney-Pieces, & Fire Skreens. Coats of Arms neatly carved. Paintings cleaned and repaired and old frames regilt. Gold Moldings Pannelling Rooms’. His label with the address, ‘Fountain-well 79 High-Street’ appears on the frames of Raeburn’s portraits, John Campbell of Moriston, and his wife, Marion Campbell (Campbell coll.), frames of a type also found on Raeburn’s double portrait, General and Mrs Francis Dundas, and on other Raeburns of the mid-1810s. Noble’s label is also found in fragmentary form on Raeburn’s diploma piece for the Royal Academy, his Boy and Rabbit, another work of the mid-1810s but framed in the distinctive centre-and-corner frames of Raeburn’s later work. The presence of his trade label on this diploma piece is a strong indication that Noble worked for Raeburn himself.

An indication of his charges can be obtained from his account which can be associated with Raeburn’s two portraits of the late Hon. William Frederick Mackenzie, for which Raeburn was paid 30 guineas each on 1 August 1815 (Thomson 1997 p.209), and Noble the considerable sum of 25 guineas each the following month on 7 September, ‘for a pair of full length picture frames richly ornamented & done in burnished gold’ (National Archives of Scotland, GD46/15/146, Seaforth Papers).

For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

Samuel Norman 1753-1755, Whittle & Norman 1755-1759, Samuel Norman 1759-1767 and perhaps later. At Great St Andrews St, Soho, London 1755, King St, Covent Garden 1758-1759, Exeter Exchange 1760-1767, Sutton St, Soho Square 1760-1767. Workshop in Hog Lane, Sutton St 1764. Carver and gilder, cabinet maker, upholsterer.

Samuel Norman (?1731-1782 or later) may have been the son of William Norman and Sarah Hallett who were married at South Petherton in Somerset in 1723; he was apparently christened at this church in 1731. Samuel Norman’s uncle, William Hallett (qv), a leading furniture maker, appears to have been born in nearby Crewkerne (Geoffrey Beard, ‘The Quest for William Hallett’, Furniture History, vol.21, 1985, p.220). Norman’s life and work has been the subject of study by Pat Kirkham, to whom this account is indebted.

Samuel Norman was apprenticed in 1746 as a carver and gilder to Thomas Woodin of St James Westminster. In 1753 he set up on his own, apparently financed by William Hallett. In 1755 Norman married Ann Whittle, daughter of Hallett’s friend, James Whittle, carver and gilder of Great St Andrews St, Soho, and later the same year was taken into partnership by Whittle when his son Thomas died. They had sufficient orders to subcontract work to William Long, a Long Acre carver and gilder. In 1758 Whittle and Norman took over premises in King St of the late John West, a prominent upholsterer, and they entered into a short-lived partnership with John Mayhew. On 7 November they advertised from King St in the Public Advertiser, that they ‘carry on the Upholstery and Cabinet, as well as the Carving and Gilding Businesses, in all their Branches’. But within a few months Mayhew had gone into partnership with William Ince (London Evening Post 18 January 1759).

On 10 December 1759 James Whittle died, leaving Norman half of his stock and the use of the rest; the whole had a gross value of £6,000. But barely a fortnight later, on 23 December, a fire destroyed the King St premises. Norman moved to a large room over Exeter Exchange, before taking over Paul Saunders’s Royal Tapestry Manufactory in Sutton St in June 1760. In 1761 Norman became Master Carver in Wood to the Office of Works, a post he apparently held until 1782 (Colvin 1976 p.473), although evidence of his activities after the mid-1760s needs to be ascertained. In 1763 he was described as ‘Sculptor and Carver to their Majesties and Surveyor of the Curious Carvings in Windsor Castle’ (Thomas Mortimer, Universal Director, 1763). Following a series of legal disputes, Norman went bankrupt in 1767 (Kirkham 1969 p.505; see also Beard 1981 p.273, quoting London Gazette 29 October 1768; London Gazette 30 June, 15 August 1772). His stock-in-trade was advertised for sale by auction at his house in Sutton St in June 1767 and a similar advertisement was placed for an auction at his Exeter Exchange premises in December (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser 15 June 1767, 14 December 1767).

Framing work: Although not primarily a picture framemaker, Norman supplied various picture and mirror frames over a period of years. Thomas Johnson (qv), his foreman, claimed to have designed and supervised the production of a magnificent frame in 1759 costing the huge sum of £200 for a portrait of the then Prince of Wales by Allan Ramsay, probably that painted for the Prince’s tutor, Lord Bute; however this frame was destroyed in the fire which wiped out Whittle and Norman’s workshops in December 1759 (Simon 2003 p.7). In 1764 ‘Mr Norman’ was paid £82.7s for a pair of gilt frames for the Crown, and in 1765 £75.17s for a further pair (Windsor Castle Archives, see Kirkham 1969 p.504).

At Egremont House in London and at Petworth in the 1760s, as well as supplying some £1250 worth of furniture, Norman produced various picture frames for the Earl of Egremont (Jackson-Stops 1980 pp.1031-2). He made ‘2 very rich and large Picture frames, in the French taste to match an old one’ for the Crimson Drawing Room at Egremont House for £29.8s, a now lost ‘exceeding Rich frame… in the Palmyra taste’ for an overmantel by Luca Giordano in the same room and a ‘chimney frame…, with Palm Trees at sides, Pot flowers on the top and Vases, Festoons of Fruit and Flowers’ for the Tapestry Room picture. Still surviving at Petworth is the ‘large grand frame… with a crown on top… Palm Branch and Laurell, as Emblem of Peace’, made in 1763 for a portrait of Henry VIII but subsequently cut down to fit Godfrey Kneller’s Queen Anne (repr. Jackson-Stops 1980 p.1031). He also supplied a ‘Large French Picture Frame, with Sweep’d Corners & middles, curiously Carved in Large manner to match 2 others, Gilt in Burnished Gold Complete’ for £8.18s (Pippa Mason, Of Gilding, Wiggins,, 1989, under Water Gilding) and was responsible for ‘Cleaning & refreshing the Gilding to all the picture frames in the Dining Parlour’.

The Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey was a significant customer, for whom Norman supplied various large glass frames and, in 1762, a frame for a portrait of the Duchess and the following year a frame for the Duke’s portrait. For Earl Stanhope at Chevening, Kent, Norman supplied two gilt frames with glasses in 1764 at £5.5s for crayon pictures of the Earl’s two children (DEFM). In 1761, Norman built and furnished a Concert Room in Carlisle House, Soho Square, for Theresa Cornelys, including ‘a Paper Machie Pier Frame’. Other important customers are listed in the Dictionary of English Furniture Makers.

Sources: P.A. Kirkham, ‘Samuel Norman: a study of an eighteenth-century Craftsman’, Burlington Magazine, vol.111, 1969, pp.501-13. Christopher Rowell, ‘The 2nd Earl of Egremont and Egremont House’, Apollo, vol.147, April 1998, pp.15-21. The above text has been prepared with help from Lynn Roberts. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

Updated September 2014
Richard Norris (active 1612, died 1628/9), London. Henry Norris (active 1630, died 1684), parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields by 1636-1654 or later, Long Acre by 1666-1669 or later. John Norris (?1642-1707), Long Acre by 1666-1693 or later, Gerrard St by 1707. Joiners and picture framemakers.

The Norrises were leading joiners and picture framemakers in London for much of the 17th century, working extensively for the Crown, the nobility and artists (Simon 1996 pp.130-1). Richard Norris (d.1628/9) was named as late his Majesty’s Joiner in 1629 when payment was made to his widow (see below). Henry Norris (d.1684), probably his son, was described in payments in the Lord Chamberlain’s payment book as Joiner for the Privy Lodgings in 1638 and was sworn as such in 1643 (National Archives, LC 3/134, p.305, LC 3/135, p.13). He held the post of Joiner of the Privy Chamber from 10 July 1660, following the Restoration, and John Norris (?1642-1707), his son, followed him from 18 May 1685 (National Archives, LC 3/61, p.45; Bucholz 2006). These positions brought them a variety of commissions from the Crown.

Richard Norris: The Norris connection with the Stuart royal family goes back to the 1610s. Richard Norris, joiner, worked on the funerary effigy of Prince Henry in 1612 in conjunction with other artists and craftsmen in the royal household, including Abraham van der Doort and William Peake; he contributed the coffin for £6 and made the body of the effigy for £9, with ‘several joints, in the arms, legs and body to be moved to sundry actions’ (spelling modernised) (effigy, Westminster Abbey, see Anthony Harvey and Richard Mortimer, The Funeral Effigies of Westminster Abbey, 1994, pp.59-62, information from Catharine MacLeod; see also Mary Edmond, ‘New Light on Jacobean Painters’, Burlington Magazine, vol.118, 1976, p.79).

‘Richard Norrys’, joiner, was paid £40.3s in the year ending Michaelmas 1622 for work for Charles Prince of Wales which included altering an organ case at St James’s, work ‘about’ Prince Charles’s Cabinet and making frames for pictures; some of this work was done in partnership with Matthew Goodricke (qv) who was responsible for painting and gilding the organ case and various picture frames (Andrew Ashby, ed., Records of English Court Music, vol.IV, 1603-1625, 1991, p.225, quoting National Archives, SC 6/Jas.I/1685).

Richard Norris received £31.10s for varied work done for Prince Charles in October 1622 and January and February 1623 including three ebony frames, one for a Dutch picture, another for the Duke of Bullen’s picture and the third for a great glass(?). Together with William Booreman, locksmith, he received the large sum of £179.13s by warrant dated January 1623 for materials and workmanship for the cabinet at St James’s, as approved by Inigo Jones and Thomas Baldwin, including a sum of £6 as a gift from the Prince to Norris (National Archives, SC 6/Jas.I/1686). The cabinet formed a room rather than being a piece of furniture, as is apparent from a payment to Abraham van der Doort as keeper of the cabinet room at St James’s (SC 6/Chas.I/1630). In 1624 Norris received a further significant payment of £132.14s.6d for new making and mending diverse picture frames in ebony and other woods and for other things done in wainscott at his highness’s command, as approved by Abraham van der Doort (SC 6/Jas.I/1687). He received £49.7s.8d for very similar work carried out in 1625 (SC 6/Jas.I/1687).

Richard Norris was dead by 1629 when described as late his Majesty’s Joiner in an order for payment of £16.16s.6d to his widow, Elizabeth, for work done in the privy lodgings at Whitehall in 1626 (National Archives, Lord Chamberlain’s payment book, LC 5/132, p.57).

Henry Norris: It seems likely that Richard Norris was the father of Henry Norris, joiner, who features in the same payment book as above, in the form of an order for payment of £28.4s in 1633 for work done ‘about his Ma[jes]ties Pictures at severall times’ during the three previous years, as approved by Abraham van der Doort, Surveyor of the King’s Pictures (National Archives, LC 5/132, p.329). There are further payments to Henry Norris in 1636, totalling £59.17s for work done about his Majesty’s pictures, in 1639 for £33.11s for picture frames, cases and other workmanship and in 1640 for £43.5s for work done about his Majesty’s pictures and frames (National Archives, LC 3/134, pp.123, 135, 305, 373). In May 1647 he submitted a bill for £7, approved by Jan van Belcamp, Van der Doort’s successor as Surveyor, for two carved and gilded frames supplied to the King for a group of three of Charles I’s children and for a copy of the Whitehall ‘great piece’ of the King and Queen and two children (British Library, Add.MS 32476, f.26; see also W.H. Hart, ‘Last Days of Charles I from the Exchequer Rolls’, Notes and Queries, 2nd S, vol.7, 1859, p.162). For later work, see below.

Little information is available about Henry Norris’s family circumstances but he may be the individual who had several children by his wife Elizabeth between 1636 and 1654, christened at St Martin-in-the-Fields, including a son, John, christened 11 September 1642. He was living in a large house in Long Acre in 1666 (Hearth Tax records, see Sources below). By 1677 Charles Beale was distinguishing 'old Mr Norris' from 'young Mr Norris', presumably Henry Norris and his son John. Many years later, George Vertue described a portrait by Isaac Fuller of 'Norris the Kings Frame maker, being then a grey haird man', and thus surely depicting Henry Norris, rather than John (Vertue vol.1, p.126).

John Norris: John Norris played an important part in the London art world of the late 17th century. He was living in Long Acre in 1666, like his father, and was listed there in ratebooks in 1683 and 1692 but not in 1700; these ratebooks in Westminster Archives remain to be studied in detail. He was recorded as deceased when he was followed in office by John Howard (qv) on 18 November 1707 (Office-holders in Modern Britain, vol.11), and a warrant was approved in May 1708 to pay his executrix his outstanding bills for picture frames (Calendar of Treasury Books, vol.22, 1950, p.248).

Contrary to assertion, John Norris was not the son of Thompson Norris (Talley 1981 pp.300-1, 372). Nor is there evidence that Thompson Norris was a framemaker. He apparently lived in the household of Mary and Charles Beale, acting as a porter in 1680/1. He may be the individual who married Mary Hill in 1691 at St James Dukes Place, having four daughters christened over the next ten years at St Anne Soho, and who described himself as a joiner in his will in 1720.

In John Norris’s posthumous auction sale, held at his dwelling house in Gerrard St on 19 November 1707, the 129 lots, largely oil paintings, about half of which were portraits, included five by Hales, three by Lely and two by or after Van Dyck including the final lot, King Charles ‘on the white Horse from Vandyke’, measuring 12 feet (British Library, Harley MS 5947, scrapbook kept by John Bagford, information from Richard Stephens).

Framing work by Henry and John Norris: The two Norrises had a considerable business in picture framing. They feature in the diaries and notebooks of three prominent figures in late 17th-century London, Samuel Pepys, Mary Beale and Constantijn Huygens the younger, and subsequently in the notebooks of George Vertue. In 1669, when framing his prints, records visiting 'the frame-maker's, one Norris in Long-Acre, who showed me several forms of frames to choose by; which was pretty, in little bits of mouldings to choose by’ (Robert Latham and William Matthews, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, vol.9, 1976, p.538, 30 April 1669).

Later work for the Crown: The Norris connection with the royal family commenced during King James I’s reign (see above). In 1660, at the restoration of King Charles II, Henry Norris was appointed Joiner of the Privy Chamber. He was paid a salary of £19.11s.8d a year as is confirmed by a series of Treasury warrants (Calendar of Treasury Books, vols 3-7, 1908-16) and his death is documented by a warrant dated 1 December 1684 payable to his executors (vol.7, p.1422).

The Treasury warrants not only refer to John Norris receiving salary payment as his father had done but also provide evidence of payments for particular work including ‘divers picture frames and other necessaries’ from June 1688 for £45.9s, ‘two pictures of their Majesties at length’ provided for Sir William Trumbull, ambassador to Constantinople in 1690 for £75, and three bills for £28.12s payable in 1691 (Calendar of Treasury Book, vols 9-10, 1931-5). Norris was paid £13 a time for supplying carved and gilded frames for Godfrey Kneller’s full-length portraits of the King, and occasionally the Queen, for ambassadors and governors (e.g. National Archives, LC 5/152, p.18). Norris claimed £20.16s for supplying ‘black ebony’ and pearwood frames for chaplains in the royal household, 1693-5, and a gilded frame for ‘His Majesty’s picture at length’, which was sent to Maryland in 1696 (National Archives, LC 5/17, see also DEF, vol.3, pp.21-2). Further research is needed in the Lord Chamberlain’s records on Norris’s work for the Crown.

Between 1693 and 1695 Constantijn Huygens the younger makes several mentions in his journal to being shown works for sale by Norris, presumably John Norris, including various paintings, a portrait miniature by Cooper in 1693, drawings by Lely, and ‘a heap of useless prints’ in 1694. He also describes how the Queen asked him to get Norris to put some prints in black frames in 1694 and how he worked with Norris and Frederick Sonnius, hanging pictures in the new gallery at Kensington Palace in November and December 1695. John Norris was allocated rooms at Kensington Palace for storing pictures in 1697 (National Archives, LC 5/152, p.47). He supplied a gilt frame for the late Queen Mary’s whole length for the Gallery at Kensington in 1699 (National Archives, LC 5/152, p.204).

At Hampton Court, Norris hung the Raphael cartoons in the Kings Gallery, 1697-8 (Colvin 1976 p.163). He received a substantial payment of £428.10s for work undertaken and goods supplied, following the death of William III (DEFM); this may have included the frame ordered in February 1701 for Godfrey Kneller’s large William III on horseback (Royal Collection, Hampton Court, see Susan Jenkins, ‘A sense of history: The artistic taste of William III’, Apollo, vol.140, August 1994, p.9, n.31).

Subsequently, the engraver and antiquary, George Vertue described John Norris as an ingenious man, who was framemaker and picture keeper at Court in King William and Queen Anne’s time, and noted how in the disastrous Whitehall Palace fire in 1698 few if any of the pictures in his care were burnt, 'tho' large & weighty' (Vertue vol.2, p.52). He also recalled, in 1730, how Norris promoted the career of Kneller's pupil, Charles Jervas, by lending him any picture in the Royal Collection to copy (Vertue vol.3, p.42, see also Caroline Pegum, ‘ “An Ingenious Painter”: new factors in the early career of Charles Jervas’, Irish Architectural and Decorative Studies, vol.13, 2010, p.89).

Work for artists: Mary Beale’s husband, Charles, kept her accounts and acted as her studio manager (his notebook for 1677 is in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and that for 1681 in the National Portrait Gallery). In February 1677, he paid ‘old Mr Norris’ £1.5s for a ‘half-length’ gilt frame. Later that year he returned to him six Italian drawings which he had borrowed from the King’s collection. The same year, ‘young Mr Norris’ supplied various gilt frames for portraits by Mary Beale, including a half-length leatherwork frame in March for £3, and further frames in every month but one from June onwards. Charles Beale made a part payment of £2 to Norris in June and a payment for straining frames in October. In 1681 ‘Norris’, presumably John Norris, supplied various gilt frames for portraits by Mary Beale, including a three quarters (i.e. 30 x 25 ins) leatherwork frame in May 1681, costing £2, and a three quarters bunched frame, charged at £1 in June that year, and two three quarters raffle leaf frames at £1 each. Charles Beale paid ‘Young Mr Norris’ £5 in part of money owing in March 1681 and ‘John Norris’ £20 in part in June 1681.

‘Norris’ was paid £5.5s for picture frames in the accounts of Peter Lely’s executors accounts following the artist’s death in 1680 (British Library, Add.MS 16174, f.16).

‘John Norris joyner’ and ‘Richard Tomson painter-stayner’, both of St Martin-in-the-Fields, each put up £50 in 1678 for the appearance of John Hayles at the Middlesex Court of Sessions to answer to a charge of ‘being a reputed papist’ ('Middlesex Sessions Rolls', Middlesex county records, vol.4, 1892, p.112, at, information from Richard Stephens). Hayles is presumably identifiable with the painter, John Hayls, who died in Long Acre in 1679.

The painter John Danckerts, in his will made 17 August and proved 18 December 1686, left £10 to John Norris, ‘the Kings Carpenter’ and £5 to Norris’s wife (National Archive, PROB 11/385, in 'The art world in Britain 1660 to 1735,').

Work for the nobility, gentry and institutions: Henry Norris appears in the accounts of the Duke of Northumberland in the 1650s and 1660s: in 1655 'Norris the Joyner' was paid £7.14s for six picture frames and five cases, in 1658 'Henry Norris', received 27s for picture frames and stretching frames, in 1661 £6.10s for three carved and gilt picture frames and 10s for three days work altering a frame and hanging pictures, in 1662 £2.10s for a gilt frame for the Duke of York’s picture and 3s for a day’s work hanging pictures and in 1664 £10.15s for four carved and gilt frames; he was also paid for cases to send pictures and frames to Petworth and for stretching frames (Wood 1994 pp.312-14). His son, John Norris, provided stretching frames for pictures and mended frames in 1667 (Wood 1994 p.314).

Henry Norris received £3.19s from the Earl of Tweeddale on 17 March 1672/3 for providing two frames and a packing case, the more expensive frame at £1.15s apparently being for Gilbert Soest’s recently completed full-length portrait of Tweeddale’s two children (National Library of Scotland, GB233/MS 14629).

John Norris worked for for numerous other prominent patrons. Among them was the Duchess of Lauderdale in 1673, for whom he supplied various frames probably including some of the Sunderland frames now ornamenting the Long Gallery at Ham House. His accounts, totalling some £36, included five half-length carved and gilded frames at £3 each, a carved and gilded frame for a portrait of the Duke’s grandfather at £5, probably not for the picture now at Ham, a carved and gilded frame for the Duke’s own picture at £3.10s, as well as ‘halfe Round Gilded frames’ and ‘Lesser halfe Round Gilded frames’ at 7s and 5s a frame (Simon 1996 p.56). He also visited Ham to put ‘the two Great peeces’ on stretching frames, and to strain pictures in the gallery and on the great staircase in 1673.

For the MP and Paymaster of the Army, Sir Stephen Fox, John Norris provided frames, picture stretchers and some paintings totalling about £188 over the years 1675 (the payment may be to the father), 1691, 1700, 1701 and 1703 (when the name of John Norris junior, presumably John Norris’s son, occurs); the most substantial payments included £30 for five large whole-length frames for John James Baker’s portraits of the Earl of Northampton’s children in 1703 and a pair of frames for portraits by Lely of Sir Stephen and Lady Fox at £9 in 1700, for which Norris also provided ‘driveup frames’, that is strainers, to line the pictures upon (Millar 1995 pp.525-8, fig.57).

For the 6th Earl of Dorset, John Norris supplied pictures, picture frames and cases for pictures, 1690-4, in particular a frame for Sir Kenelm Digby’s picture in 1691, and provided old master paintings and other pictures, 1693-5 (Kent History and Library Centre, U269/A7/25, A195/9, supplemented by information from Richard Stephens, May 2012). More unusually, Norris supplied Lord Dorset with white staves at £1 a dozen for use in his role as Lord Chamberlain; such a stave can be seen in Dorset’s Kit-cat Club portrait by Godfrey Kneller, c.1697 (National Portrait Gallery). The same bill includes charges for a carved and gilt frame for a half-length portrait of Lord Dorset at £3.10s and for a full-length frame and strainer for Kneller’s Lord Buckhurst and his sister, c.1695 (Knole) at £10, as well as a payment to Charles Jervas for a copy of a Venus by Titian at £12.

John Norris was paid £14 by the City of London in June 1671 for supplying the first of the elaborate Sunderland frames, perhaps a prototype, for John Michael Wright’s full-length portraits of the Fire Judges (who adjudicated property claims arising from the Great Fire), which used to hang in the Guildhall until dispersed in 1951 owing to poor condition. Several frames were later supplied by Mary Flesheir, presumably the wife of Balthazar or Tobias Flessier (qv) (London Metropolitan Archives, COL/CHD/CT/03/01/009, Chamberlain’s cashbook; see also James Howgego, ‘The Fire Judges’, Guildhall Miscellany, vol.1, no.2, 1952, pp.21, 30, and Vivien Knight, The Works of Art of the Corporation of London, 1986, p.3).

John Norris worked for the Earl of Salisbury in 1687, framing two portraits by William Wissing of the Earl and his wife for £7.10s (Hatfield House, see Auerbach 1971 p.175). John Norris was paid £29.10s by the Earl of Arran in 1695 for pictures, frames and cases (Hamilton Inventories, typescript in National Portrait Gallery Library, p.78). In March 1699, the Earl of Sunderland wrote from Althorp to the Duke of Hamilton, asking him to 'give from me ten guinnys to Norries the frame-maker's son and att the same time chide him for troubling me' (National Archives of Scotland, GD406/1/6851).

From all these payments, we can suggest that the cost of a whole-length frame ranged from £10 to £14 or a child’s whole-length £6, a half-length between £1.5s and £3.10s and a ‘three-quarters’ or head-and-shoulders between £1 and £2, the cost being greater for more elaborate carving, such as Sunderland frames, and gradually increasing with time.

Sources: Hearth Tax returns, 1666, listing Henry Norris in Long Acre on north side in a household with 11 hearths and John Norris five doors along in a household with 6 hearths, information from Richard Stephens, see 'Hearth Tax: Middlesex 1666: St Martin-in-the-Fields', London Hearth Tax: City of London and Middlesex, 1666 (2011), accessed at, October 2012; Journaal van Constantijn Huygens, den zoon, van 21 October 1688 tot 2 Sept. 1696, Utrecht, vol.2, 1877, pp.178, 316, 333-4, 438, 550, 552, 555-6, in Werken Historisch Genootschap, vol.25; DEFM, p.654 (kindly translated by Margaret Binnie); Kent Record Office, Knole papers, U269 A7/25, A7/27, A192/9, A193/12, A195/2, from notes by Gervase Jackson-Stops held by the National Trust. For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

Updated September 2018
Nosotti 1828-1853, Charles Nosotti 1854-1885, Nosotti & Co 1883. At 2 Dean St (‘one door from Oxford-street’), Soho, London 1829-1841, 398 Oxford St 1839-1881, 399 Oxford St by 1846-1881, also at 397 Oxford St, street renumbered 1881, 93-99 Oxford Street 1881-1890, manufactories and warehouses at 102 Dean St 1841, 1855, 3-4 Great Chapel St W 1862-1883, and elsewhere. Addresses not traced in detail after 1870. Carvers and gilders, looking glass manufacturers, by 1870 also upholsterers and decorators.

Charles Andrew Nosotti (1798-1853) was born in or near Milan. His year of birth, and date of death, 28 August 1853, is recorded on his plaque on the Dissenters' Chapel at Kensal Green Cemetery (information from Julian Holland, September 2017). He was in business in London by 1822, it was later claimed. In 1827 he married Amelia Ruenia Garbanati, daughter of Joseph Garbanati (qv), another Italian carver and gilder in London. Initially he seems to have traded as Andrea Nosotti with Francis Nosotti, possibly his brother, as looking glass manufacturers, until the partnership of A. and F. Nosotti, also styled as A. Nosotti & Co, 21 New Compton St, was dissolved in 1826 (The Times 16 November 1826). Andrea Nosotti appears to be the individual listed as A. Nosotti at 19 Great Windmill St in 1828, and as Andrea Nosotti at 2 Dean St in 1829. Francis Nosotti traded at 298 Oxford St as a looking glass and picture framemaker, 1829-31. C.A. Nosotti was listed at 198 Oxford St in 1838, perhaps in error since he appears at 398 Oxford St thereafter.

Charles Andrew Nosotti advertised a sale of his surplus stock when he moved to Oxford St in 1838, including pier and chimney glasses in rich gilt frames, console and pier tables, cornices, picture frames etc (The Times 9 July 1838). His new showroom was at 399 Oxford St, with his gilders’ shop in adjoining premises around the corner in Great Chapel St, according to plans lodged with the Metropolitan Building Office, c.1845-53 (London Metropolitan Archives, MBO/PLANS/518). He was a customer of the specialist composition ornament maker, George Jackson & Sons (qv), 1838-9 (see Jackson account book, V&A Archive of Art and Design, AAD/2012/1/2/3). In his will, made 11 July 1853 and proved 18 April 1854, Nosotti requested to be buried in the basilica of St George at Cuggiono, near Milan, presumably his birthplace, but his remains were housed in the Dissenters' Chapel catacomb at Kensal Green Cemetery, according to the cemetery’s records (information from Henry Vivian-Neal, April 2011).

Charles F. Nosotti (c.1831-1909), his son and successor, was listed in the 1861 census as a carver and gilder, living in Hampstead, employing ten men. However, his work concerns us less since the business extended its activities away from frame making to interior decorating and upholstery, as indicated by Nosotti’s trade card, with added date 1862 (Johnson coll., Trade Cards 24 (60). Much the same advertisement appeared in the 1862 Post Office London directory, p.2378, where it was claimed that the business had been established in 1822. In 1863 Nosotti used the designation for the business, ‘The London and Paris Looking Glass & Interior Decorating Manufactory’ (National Portrait Gallery records, Trustees’ meeting correspondence, meeting of 6 February 1863). In 1866, Nosotti advertised his manufactory and ten showrooms as containing looking glasses, console tables, window cornices, girandole, picture frames etc, manufactured on the premises (The Times 22 August 1866). By 1870 the business was listed as upholsterer, decorator, house and ornamental painters, by appointment carver and gilder to his late Majesty William IV and to His Imperial Majesty, Napoleon III. Charles Francis Nosotti was involved in bankruptcy proceedings in 1870 (London Gazette 25 January 1870), and again, as Charles Nosotti, upholsterer, in 1890 (The Times 13 August 1890, London Gazette 9 September 1890).

Two notable commissions were undertaken for catholic patrons: in the late 1850s decoration of the chapels of the London Oratory at Brompton ('The London Oratory', Survey of London, vol.41, South Kensington, 1983, p.51, available online at, and in the late 1860s and 1870s refurbishment at Norfolk House in London (Country Life, 23 May 1991, p.98; Apollo, June 2006, p.57, n.9). Nosotti supplied the frames for James Sant’s Duc d’Aumalle and Duchesse d’Aumalle, exh.1860 (Royal Collection, see Millar 1992 nos 610-1).

For abbreviations, see Resources and bibliography.

Found a mistake? Have some extra information? Please contact Jacob Simon at [email protected].

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