When the Museum of Modern Art in New York decides to reframe Cézanne’s The Bather and Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, or when the Metropolitan Museum of Art looks to enhance an important painting by Juan Bautista Maino with just the right frame before it could loan it to the Prado Museum in Madrid, or when the National Museum of American Illustration in Rhode Island looks to revitalize the largest work by legendary artist Maxfield Parrish—they turn to Lowy for help.
The list of museums that have used Lowy services for framing also includes the National Gallery of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Crystal Bridges Museum, Chrysler Museum of Art, Kimball Art Museum, Detroit Institute of Arts, Meadows Museum, St. Louis Art Museum, and the New York Historical Society.
Read our featured client stories below.
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A Frame Fit for a King
When the Prado Museum in Madrid recently requested an important painting from the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an upcoming exhibition of works by the Spanish painter Juan Bautista Maino (1581-1641) it was missing a key element: a frame to match its baroque splendor. The full-length portrait of Philip IV (1605-1665) in Parade Armor, believed to date from the mid-1620s, had been hanging unframed in the Metropolitan Museum’s arms and armor department. But whether Maino, a follower of Caravaggio who is thought to have studied with El Greco, actually painted the portrait has long been debated, according to Keith Christiansen, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum. Although Maino served as a drawing teacher to the young Philip (later Philip IV) and participated in the decoration of the royal palace Buen Retiro in Madrid, the portrait is currently attributed to the 17th-century Flemish artist Gaspard de Crayer, who worked at the court of Madrid under Philip IV.
“We hope the Prado exhibition will shed more light on who the artist really is,” says Christiansen. “But before we could loan the painting, it had to be enhanced with just the right frame, and we had to start from scratch. Having worked closely with Lowy over the years, we knew they could create exactly what we wanted—a reproduction 17th-century Spanish frame that had substance, character and detail that both evoked the period and complemented the painting.”
Left: Philip IV in Parade Armor attributed to Gaspard de Crayer recently framed in a 17th century Spanish style cassetta frame designed and crafted by Lowy for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Top right: Detail showing placement of a sgraffito design on the frame as designed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Bottom right: Detail showing sgraffito corner decoration on the frame designed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The Chrysler Museum: A Perfect Marriage
One of the highlights of the notable American paintings collection at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia, is “The Old Mill” (1876), a monumental landscape painting by the Hudson River School painter Jasper Francis Cropsey. Noted for his luminous autumn landscapes of New York and New England, Cropsey captured in this painting a quintessential image of rural America. The mill depicted in the painting stood on the banks of the Wawayanda Creek near Warwick, New York, not far from Cropsey’s estate, “Aladdin.”
When Cropsey painted the picture, rural water mills, which were being replaced by steam-powered mills and factories, had become nostalgic symbols of America’s pre-industrial past. This romantic, picturesque quality contributed to the painting’s popularity at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where Cropsey received a medal for “excellence.” “The Old Mill” was such a success at the exposition that it spawned thousands of prints and photographic reproductions, making it one of the most familiar images in American art. “Because the image of the old mill has become so embedded in our collective unconscious, there is a danger, when looking at this painting, of not truly appreciating its exceptional skill,” says Jeff Harrison, chief curator at the Chrysler Museum. “It is so gloriously painted; Cropsey was a master of blazing fall foliage. The painting’s aesthetic accomplishment, with its precise, naturalistic detail and vibrant colors, combined with its large scale and nostalgic imagery, make it the most
important of Cropsey’s works from the 1870s.”
But despite its glowing attributes, “The Old Mill” was missing an essential element: a frame that complemented its grandeur. “When this painting arrived at the museum in 1963, it was tragically under-framed,” says Harrison. “The original frame was too thin, a bit worn and not grand enough for an exhibition picture of this quality and importance. It did not complete the painting but rather detracted from it.” That frame had been preoccupying Harrison for some time, until he finally decided to consult with Lowy, whose centennial exhibition, The Secret Lives of Frames, was on display at the Chrysler Museum. “I wanted a grand 19th-century American exhibition frame that would match the painting,” Harrison says. In the past, Lowy had framed many artworks from the collection of Walter P. Chrysler which were now at the museum.
Lowy consultants began the process by visiting the Chrysler Museum to view the Cropsey painting. Upon returning to New York, they selected several antique frames from Lowy’s extensive inventory as potential candidates. Digital images of these frames were “married” to digital images of the Cropsey painting and sent via Lowy’s SCAN system to the Chrysler Museum. Harrison reviewed the choices with his colleagues and then came to New York to see the final selections in person at Lowy’s showroom.
He selected a beautiful late 19th-century gilt composition frame with finely cast,
continuous acanthus-leaf and leaf-and-berry decoration. “The frame we chose has both a massive quality and delicate details that match both the monumentality and precise detail of the painting,” Harrison says. “It is muscular enough to hold the painting yet delicate enough to enhance the imagery. It was the perfect marriage of frame and painting.”