This French dore bronze bi-fold frame with chromolithographs (probable German origin) is in outstanding condition! It's wonderful design contains a bow top, cherubs, floral swags, curling leaves as well as a running leaf pattern thru out the side and bottom, fine lined, ridged borders. Even the rims to the portraits have a pattern of a ribbon wrapped around the rims. The lithos are of four different ladies. They are print copies of famous oil portraits of the 18th & 19th centuries. The total effect is very much Belle Epoque. JUST A NOTE: When viewing the lithos if you see a strange slightly foggy or shinny or dark spot it is NOT damage to the the litho. Both the glass and camera created reflections hence some of my angles on the photos.
The frame is unmarked but attributed to France in origin. It's dore finish is intact and is a very deep, mellow gold containing a light uneven color depth due to age and old style cleaners. It has no ugly scratches or abrasions to the dore and has never been re-plated. The bronze has no cracks, broken/missing pieces or repairs and the bi-fold hinge is all original without repair. The Victorian style fabric is a professionally done replacement that is intact with no rips, holes or stains.
The portraits are absolutely delightful with four different styles, casual to elegant, of ladies from different time periods. The variety of colors as well as the quality of the artistry is wonderful. None of the portraits show rips, holes, nasty scratches/abrasions or repairs. The lady at the bottom right corner either has a very, very fine line 1/4" long surface scratch to her litho, to the backside of the glass or a hair under her glass. I lean towards the hair as the glass on the other three portraits feel slightly curved and her glass feels straight. All of the glass is without chips, cracks, nasty scratches or abrasions. Using a 10 power loupe the lithographs resemble a watercolor painting (see litho info below).
Neither the portraits or the frame have any visible hallmarks, but we did not take the frame apart to check the entire surface of the lithos. The frame is approx. 9 3/4" tall thru it's center and each half is 4 1/4"wide. Opened in what I feel is a safe spread the frame is approx. 7 1/2" wide x approx. 3" deep. It does rock lightly on my desk surface but a bit of felt applied to the bottom right corner would stop it. The oval portraits are approx. 3" tall x 2 1/4" wide and the round ones are approx. 2 1/4" in diameter. A fabulous addition to a lithograph or frame collection and even better for that person who enjoys antique home decor.
The following info has been acquired from general internet research regarding the lithograph process as well as some specific info from David Rudd Cycleback, an art historian, researcher & author with a long list of credits to his name.
The lithographs in the 1800s were 'handmade,' meaning the designs on the printing plates or stones were made by hand and hand-held tools. They came in different styles, depending on the taste of the artist and that tools used. Chromolithography (colored lithos) was another process which by the end of the 19th century had become the predominant art form despite using multiple print runs with a plate/stone for each color. These prints from the 19th and early 20th century are known for their beautiful colors and vivid graphics. Many resemble watercolor or gouache paintings. German chromolithographers became the dominate producers in the trade due to their low-cost high-volume productions. Around the turn of the century mechanically produced color separation started being used. This process took photographs of the image with three different color filters. This reduced the number of print runs needed- I saw examples of 3 & 4 runs. An interesting comment I found during my research is "The 50 years following the Civil War have been called the period of "chromo civilization" in America" as millions of these lithos were made and became the customary decoration (from The Philadelphia Print Shop website).
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Dore Bronze Frame w/ 4 Original Lithographs - Circa 1900