Part One

The easiest and cheapest way for a curator to put their stamp on a Museum is to change the frames.

Accompanying said changes leads to an Exhibition and tickets (revenue) catalogues (revenue) travelling exhibitions (revenue) and so it continues, which begs the question as to whether it is an exhibition of the art or the frame – or the curator’s opinion?

Now, nobody could really call me a cynical man – but – I can remember a particular conversation between Tommy Brod and Rob Noortman.

Firstly it should be said that once it was established that I wasn’t a threat and didn’t deal in paintings – then I assumed the role of a “dumbwaiter” and did not exist until spoken to. In this guise, some of the conversations I was privy to in the early days were extraordinary, as like a bee collecting pollen I was moving from one dealer to the next, sometimes up to 15 in a day, and hearing the conflicting “goss” from each.

I digress.

I was at Rob’s in his hallowed basement where he was discussing framing and sales of Dutch Paintings with Tommy Brod. Rob said he was fed up with the brash French frames – Catholic monsters that had nothing to do with Calvinist Art. Tommy agreed but Rob continued by saying that it was a bit like playing brag, where, when things aren’t going well, then one changes the rules – “let’s put all our Dutch paintings into black frames”.

It was 1974, just after the great winter blackouts due to the oil crisis and the accompanying recession. Noortman was preparing to revitalise business with the first Maastricht Art Fair in 1975 – and the world of Dutch Paintings took off.

His game of brag was brilliant.

In their hundreds, the gold Louis monsters were removed along with the Napoleonic “collector” frames and the world hailed a new vision of the old paintings. On the sidelines the minnow company John Davies Framing became inundated with orders requiring an output of a minimum of 30 Museum quality frames a week to keep pace.

For the next 10 years “any colour as long as it is black” was good, with virtually no regard for style, profile or embellishments until Dr van Thiel’s radical exhibition “Prijst de Lijst”. The 1984 exhibition was the conclusion to a 14 year personal quest to answer the question “What IS a Dutch Frame”. The exhibition evaporated the dealer’s invention of the “Dutch Ripple Frame”, and there was an increase in sales for simpler Calvinist models.

Two years later in 1986 I was summoned to the Mauritshuis by Hendrik Richard (Hans) Hoetink (1929- 2019) to provide framing proposals for the View of Delft by Vermeer.

The concept just about blew my mind.

It was before we had the ability to make computer montages so I made 6 different frames for the Museum to choose from, on the basis that if one was successful the frame was free and I had the copyright to use the image for “discreet advertising”. Partly out of devilment, but also to understand who I was dealing with, one of the frames was a combination profile with 5 rows of ripple. It was a copy of a period frame owned by Ronald Cook (Bond Street).

In light of the recent Prijst de Lijst exhibition, the choice was unusual, but the decision was theirs and I had the copyright to use the image for the first company brochure.

The accolade of framing “The View of Delft” alerted the presence of the company to diverse Museums and Galleries, which starts another set of reminiscences – but not just now.

21 years later in 2007 I was summoned again to the Mauritshuis to meet a new Curator by the name of Emilie Gordenker, who wanted a new frame for the View of Delft. But this time I was provided with the information as to what they wanted.

Photographs and scaled drawings were exchanged and the original offer was again accepted, namely that the company would donate the frame in exchange for discreet advertising.


But that is only half the story.

Reverting to 1986 and the Mauritshuis, Mr Hoetink sent me a charming letter regarding the reception of the new frame for the View of Delft, and making reference to his wish re-frame “The Girl with a Pearl Earring”.




To come later, part two



Copyright John Davies