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Lawrence's framemakers

It seems likely that Lawrence chose his framemakers largely on the basis of their reputations and on the convenience of their studios. Four framemakers whom Lawrence worked with are discussed here but the evidence as to his makers is patchy, especially in his earlier years. Two of these businesses, those of William Adair and of Thomas and James Byfield were ones that Lawrence came into contact with in his role as Painter to the King from 1792. The Lord Chamberlain would issue orders to Lawrence for portraits of the king and queen, for supply to ambassadors and others, and at the same time he would order 'rich carved and gilded frames' from the king’s carver and gilder.

William Adair

The carver and gilder, William Robert Adair (d.1807), took over from his father, John, in about 1770, apparently initially in partnership with his mother. He worked from Wardour Street until at least 1794 and then from other addresses in Soho, including King Street, off Golden Square, and Brewer Street. Adair was appointed carver and gilder to King George III in 1784 (Morning Herald 30 November 1784), and it was in this capacity that he framed Lawrence’s state portraits. The Lord Chamberlain regularly issued orders to William Adair for 'rich carved and gilded frames' (National Archives, Lord Chamberlain’s papers, e.g. LC 5/163, pp.2, 3, 24, 47, dating to 1793-4). Thomas Lawrence appears to have used Adair’s services for some of his own framing work on occasion (Simon 1996 pp.99, 132). A pastel portrait by Lawrence with Adair’s label from 47 Brewer Street is apparently dated as early 1794 (private coll., repr. Christopher Gilbert, Pictorial Dictionary of Marked London Furniture 1700-1840, 1996, p.62).

Royal portraits framed by Adair include the Lawrence studio portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte at Knole, probably supplied to Lord Whitworth in 1802; that of George III has the framemaker’s label on the back, 'Adair, Carver and Gilder To Their Majesties' and is probably one of the frames included in Adair’s bill, dated 9 March 1803, for £108.8s.6d (see A Guide to Picture Frames at Knole on the National Portrait Gallery website).

Thomas and James Byfield

Thomas Byfield of 39 Old Compton St, probably a brother or nephew of the founder of the business, James Byfield the elder, was made carver and gilder to His Majesty, following the death of William Adair in 1807. His appointment was renewed in 1820 at the accession of George IV. He was followed in 1826 by James Byfield the younger perhaps his son, who was reappointed when William IV came to the throne in 1830 (National Archives, LC 3/69 pp.28, 92, 158). The Byfields are recorded in the Royal Household accounts, generally for supplying frames for royal portraits for ambassadors and governors, to a value of more than £4200 between 1808 and 1827 (G. Beard and C. Gilbert (eds.), Dictionary of English Furniture Makers 1660-1840; National Archives, LC 9/397). In December 1808 Thomas Byfield provided the Lord Chamberlain with an account of work then in hand in the form of a large rich picture frame for a portrait of the King for the Speaker’s House and two pairs of frames for portraits of the king and queen for the governors of Jamaica and Dominica, portraits which will have been by Lawrence (National Archives, LC 9/414 part 2).

Michael Tijou

Relatively little is known of Michael Tijou (active 1795, d.1835/6), who for a time acted as a picture dealer as well as a framemaker. He had premises in Greek Street, where Lawrence himself was resident at No.57 from 1797 to 1813. He supplied frames to the owner of Petworth, the 3rd Earl of Egremont, 1799-1806. Subsequently, his most notable client was Sir John Leicester, for whom he and his son, Henry, appear to have supervised the opening of Leicester’s Gallery of modern British pictures in Mayfair in 1818. It is clear that Tijou was well connected, and that he knew a number of leading artists including John Opie, John Hoppner, Joseph Farington, George Henry Harlow and James Northcote.

Lawrence certainly knew Tijou by 1807, as is apparent from Joseph Farington’s diary (Farington, vol.8 p.3002) but it is not clear whether he started using Tijou’s services then, following Adair’s death that year, or perhaps rather later. Tijou had presumably been Lawrence's framemaker for some time by November 1816 when Farington had more than one conversation with Lawrence concerning his business with him, in particular about ‘settling an account with Tijou, his Frame Maker’, suggesting that Lawrence was being pressed for payment of his framing bills. By January the following year, Lawrence had decided ‘to settle finally with Tijou’s solicitor’ (Farington, vol.14 pp.4919, 4921, 4956).

Lawrence appears to have continued using or recommending Tijou. His Frederick Duke of York, c.1822 ( Christies 6 July 2007 lot 209 ), in a standard frame like that on George IV (fig.6), bears the frame label of M. Tijou & Son from 17 Greek Street as ‘Carvers, Gilders, Glass & Picture Frame Manufacturers’, advertising, ‘Old Glasses New polished & Silvered. Old Pictures restored. Secondhand Glasses of large Dimensions’. By 1823 Lawrence's very considerable business seems to have been transferred to George Morant (see below). ‘Mr Tijou' received a final payment of £68.10s.6d from Lawrence’s estate in 1830 (V&A National Art Library, MSL/1938/1923) and ‘Tijou’ was a purchaser at Lawrence’s posthumous sale at Christie’s on 17 June the same year, both of frames and drawings.

George Morant

George Morant (1770-1846) worked for the paper-stainer, John Sheringham, before going into business on his own account, initially in partnership as a wallpaper hanger, and then independently as an interior decorator, carver and gilder at 88 New Bond St. The architect and decorator, J.B. Papworth (1775-1847), once Morant’s fellow pupil at Sheringham’s, redesigned his shop for him in 1817 (Simon 1996 p.127). It is not known whether Papworth played any part in conceiving the distinctive frame type that Morant repeatedly made for Lawrence in the 1820s but we know that he provided Morant with designs for decoration and ornament over many years (George McHardy, Catalogue of the Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects: Office of J.B. Papworth, 1977, pp.28, 32, 118).

It was in the 1820s that Morant was most active as a picture framemaker, notably working for George IV, Thomas Lawrence and Robert Peel. He was appointed carver and gilder and picture framemaker to the King in June 1824 (National Archives, LC 3/69 p.69) but seems to have been working for Lawrence as early as 1823. His distinctive frame pattern can be found on several of Lawrence’s full-length portraits including George IV (Wallace Collection, the frame ex-2nd Earl of Harewood, 1823, see Museum Management and Curatorship, vol.15, 1996, p.424), George Canning, 1825, and Lord Liverpool, 1827, both for Robert Peel (both National Portrait Gallery, see Simon 1996 fig.103). Morant did further framing work for Peel in 1828 (Simon 1996 p.170, n.2) and, trading as G. Morant & Son, worked for Sir John Soane, who was charged £21 in February 1829 for a ‘richly ornamented Frame of the King’s Pattern’, presumably for Lawrence’s portrait of Soane himself, although the pattern differs from Morant‘s standard Lawrence frame.

Fig.8. Morant’s frame trade label, found on Lord Liverpool, by Thomas Lawrence, 1827 (National Portrait Gallery).

Fig.8. Morant’s frame trade label, found on Lord Liverpool
by Thomas Lawrence, 1827
(National Portrait Gallery).
Click on the image to view a larger version

Morant’s frame trade label from the mid-1820s described him as ‘Carver, Gilder and Picture Frame Maker to His Majesty’ (fig.8). He presumably framed J.M.W. Turner’s Battle of Trafalgar on completion in 1824, using a pattern close to his distinctive Lawrence frames, and reframed P.J. de Loutherbourg’s Battle of the Glorious 1st of June to match, both for George IV, who gave the pictures to Greenwich Hospital in 1829 (now National Maritime Museum). Many of the frames that Morant made for the King for portraits by Lawrence between 1825 and 1830 were described as very richly ornamented, the larger frames costing as much as £46.10s (Oliver Millar, The later Georgian pictures in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen, 1969, p.60, etc).

When Morant called on Lawrence in 1829, shortly before his death, he noted how Lawrence would require an extended lifetime to complete the immense number of unfinished canvases in his studio (Williams 1831, vol 2, p.432). In 1830 and subsequently he received significant payments from Lawrence’s estate, including one for £646 on 24 June 1830 (V&A National Art Library, MSL/1938/1923). ‘Morant’ was a purchaser at Lawrence’s posthumous sales at Christie’s in 1830.

Other makers

Other framemakers received small amounts from Lawrence’s estate, including William Cribb (c.1789-1870), who was paid £4.10s in August 1830, and W. Hogarth, who received £18.2s for frames the following month and subsequent payments, whether for work carried out in Lawrence’s lifetime or for his executors (V&A National Art Library, MSL/1938/1922).

George IV used Edward Wyatt (1757-1833), carver and gilder to the King since 1812, to frame some of Lawrence’s work following his death, including a very rich frame for the full-length Prince George of Cumberland for £29.17s, and a presumably much simpler frames for two outsize full lengths, Arthur Duke of Wellington and Prince Schwarzenberg, costing £14.10s and £14.15s respectively (Oliver Millar, The later Georgian pictures in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen, 1969, nos 882, 912, 917, see also 918). His charges were more modest than those of George Morant.

For more detailed information on framemakers discussed here, see British picture framemakers, 1630-1950 on the National Portrait Gallery website.

4. Lawrence's influence on picture framing
Introduction (for publications cited in brief)