Marquis Edouard-Jean de Luker


 The Louis XV frame on this painting may very well be the original, applied to it either by the artist or the client. It is a magnificent example of the full-blown Rococo style: opulent, bold and plastic, with massive sculptural cartouches in the corners and centres, and a fluent combination of rocaille, foliate and Classical ornament.

The grandeur of such a setting is an index of the importance of the sitter, and his ability to commission the skills, not only of one of the leading French artists of the mid-18th century, but of the numbers of craftsmen needed to produce this type of frame. The wooden carcase would be made by a joiner, and the design would then be carved into it - in this case, probably by a maître sculpteur. It would be covered with thin layers of gesso, and then the fine detail of the ornament would be recut by the répareur. Finally, it would be gilded, and various areas left matt or burnished.

As the spectator moved before the finished work, different ornamental facets would capture the light, throwing it onto the painting and providing a sense of shimmering movement and life. This sense of vitality is heightened by the correspondence between the style of frame and painting - the three-dimensionality of the figure in its slightly contrapuntal pose is echoed by the strong lines of the frame design and depth and weight of the carving, whilst the fluid curves of his costume are repeated in the swept rails and voluted cartouches. Such correspondence is found in all successful matings of frame and picture, where each enhances the other, and the spectator is hardly aware of them as separate objects.


Artist's impression of The Marquis Edouard-Jean de Luker
(1756, oil on canvas, Orléans, Musée des Beaux-Arts)
by Louis-Michel Van Loo

drawn in its French Louis XV frame
(Top) details of frame corners and central cartouche, from the same drawing

Coloured pencil on paper 2002