Frames on the 1785 Delapierre Portrait
The Current Frame
The existing hand-carved and hand-gilded wood frame on the 1785 Delapierre portrait is not the painting's original frame. The current frame was crafted by M. Grieve Company sometime between 1906 (when the company came to New York) and early 1955 (when the company went out of business).1 We know this because, though the company was in business since 1720,2 the M. Grieve Co. stamped impression on the back of the frame mentions both the New York and London offices.3 So regardless of where the frame was made, its manufacture occurred after the firm had offices in New York.
Also, we know that the Grieve frame was already on the painting when the combination was purchased by O. Roy Chalk at a Parke-Bernet Galleries auction in New York on 16 October 1954 because the faint inscription of the Parke-Bernet item number for the painting ("258") is still visible on the back of the frame.4
Moreover, we can be confident that construction of the frame
was not commissioned by Parke-Bernet Galleries just
prior to the auction, because the frame for the Delapierre canvas was custom-designed
and hand-crafted to very close tolerances,5 and
the Grieve company had almost certainly ceased designing and producing such
custom frames well before the 16 October 1954 auction.6
Based on correspondence with Agnew's in London7 and Archivio Bardini in Florence,8 along with the findings described above, the research team considers it highly likely that the existing frame was manufactured sometime between 1 October 1928 and 5 March 1929. Thos. Agnew & Sons owned the painting during this period, and they often re-framed works prior to selling them. We also have evidence that when Thos. Agnew & Sons purchased the portrait from the previous owner, Ugo Bardini, it had a different frame.9
The Previous (Original?) Frame
It is the portrait's previous frame that most interests the research team. This frame appears in a photograph uncovered in mid-2010 by researchers at Archivio Bardini in Florence, Italy, and may be original to the painting. The team has so far been unable to learn when and where the older frame was manufactured, and by whom. Determining its origin might help with efforts to trace the early ownership of the portrait.10
References and notes
 On Tuesday, 5 April
1955 beginning at 1:45 p.m., Parke-Bernet Galleries,
Inc., in New York auctioned the
remaining inventory of M. Grieve Company, following the firm's dissolution after more than 200 years in business. The
auction catalog contained the following brief write-up (see auction catalog
introduction, "Fine Hand-Carved Frames and Mirrors—The Stock of M. Grieve
Co., Inc., New York," Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., 980 Madison Avenue, New
York, 5 April 1955):
THE DEAN OF THE MASTER WOOD CARVERS
By the time the auction sale of the stock of M. Grieve Company is held on April 5 , this famous firm of wood carvers will have vacated the quarters they have occupied since 1924 at 236 East 59th Street and the company will be dissolved.
It is with genuine regret that Maurice Grieve, head of the firm, retires from the craft he and his forbears practiced for more than two hundred years. Ill health and changing times have combined to bring about his decision. Mr. Grieve's family started the business in Belgium two hundred thirty-five years ago [in 1720]; in 1906, the company came to New York.
The accomplishments of the Grieve Company include the carved ceilings in the main exhibition hall of the New York Public Library, and wall paneling in such fabulous mansions as the Andrew Carnegie and Henry Frick. Their craftsmen were responsible for the rich wood carved embellishments of the old time luxury liners Lusitania, Mauretania and Titanic. World famous art collectors who employed the Grieve talents to make frames for their paintings included the Astors, the Vanderbilts, the Whitneys, Andrew Mellon and William Randolph Hearst. Hand-carved and hand-gilded frames, copied from old examples, some as early as the XVI century, were part of their craft. The Huntington Blue Boy was framed by the Grieves as were many other masterpieces. More recently M. Grieve created the frames for the Douglas Chandor painting of Queen Elizabeth II and the portrait of Queen Marie of Rumania.
It is possible that fine hand-carved frame and wall paneling will become virtually extinct with the passing of the Grieve Company, for few great wood carvers are now at work and, according to Mr. Grieve, there are no apprentices.
 See auction catalog introduction, "Fine Hand-Carved Frames and Mirrors—The Stock of M. Grieve Co., Inc., New York," Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., 980 Madison Avenue, New York, 5 April 1955.
 The impression
stamped on the back of the Delapierre portrait's current frame reveals that the
frame was made between 1906 (when the company came to New York) and early 1955
(when the company went out of business).
 See auction catalog, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., 980 Madison Avenue, New York, 15-16 October 1954, item number 258 (with photograph), p. 56. Although the back of the frame was later preserved using water-based "gray wash" paint, the faint inscription of the Parke-Bernet item number for the painting ("258") is still visible through the paint.
 The M. Grieve Co. frame on the 1785 Delapierre portrait was custom designed and manufactured so that almost none of the canvas is obscured by the frame. The frame also includes hand-carved elements in its design that mirror features in the painting, such as the brass-head tacks on the upholstered chair.
 See auction catalog
introduction, "Fine Hand-Carved Frames and Mirrors—The Stock of M. Grieve Co., Inc., New York," Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., 980
Madison Avenue, New York, 5 April 1955.
 Correspondence from Jane E. H. Hamilton, Librarian, Agnew's (London), 3 August 2004.
 Correspondence from Dr. Stefano Tasselli, Archivio Bardini, Florence, Italy, May 2010 and 2 September 2010.
 A late-19th or early-20th century photograph of the 1785 Delapierre portrait with a different frame was uncovered by researchers at Archivio Bardini in mid-2010. Based on several letters written by Ugo Bardini in late 1927 and late 1928, the research team is confident that Ugo sold the painting to Thos. Agnew & Sons with that older frame.
 Details of the frame
from the Bardini photograph are shown below. (Courtesy of Archivio Bardini.)