An Italian Sojourn:
Framing a Heroic Scene by Rubens
Lowy is proud to collaborate with distinguished museums and art institutions. It has been our privilege to have had the opportunity to work with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. over the years, selecting frames that are period appropriate, contextually accurate, and aesthetically complimentary for important paintings in the museum’s permanent collection.
We provides mock ups of frame recommendations and profile drawings, then usually ship the selected frame to be tried on the painting before a final decision is made.
In 2015, Arthur Wheelock, curator of the Gallery’s Northern European Art Collection, asked us to offer frame selections for an important painting by Peter Paul Rubens, Decius Mus Addressing the Legions (31 3/4 x 33 3/8”).
This painting is a sketch or modello, probably painted in 1616, of one of the scenes in Ruben’s first tapestry commission depicting the life of the Roman consul Declus Mus. The subject
is the first episode of the heroic story about the war between the Romans and the Samnites. The sketch would have been enlarged by Ruben’s assistants and then woven into a tapestry.
After we submitted a portfolio of frame mockups for the Rubens, the Gallery selected an early 17th-century Italian parcel gilt cassetta frame with a scrolling foliate sgrafitto design in the corners. The frame is ebonized pine wood with gilding at the corners and on the inner and outer moldings, possibly Roman.
Rubens was a Flemish painter known for his religious and mythological paintings. He employed a large staff of apprentices who assisted him with the vast output of his sizable studio in Antwerp. In 1600, he travelled to Italy and spent a good deal of time in Rome over the next few years. The art of the Italian masters that he saw influenced him greatly, particularly the work of Caravaggio. Rubens was a true Renaissance man of many talents, who was fascinated with Greco-Roman antiquity and ancient philosophers.
The National Gallery of Art was delighted with the frame, and the framed painting now hangs on the main floor of the museum’s West building. Given Rubens’ fascination with Italian art, we assume that he, too, would have approved of this Italian frame.