1400s Illuminated Manuscript

We recently framed a single vellum page of an illuminated manuscript from the late 1400s, France. The piece offered a new array of framing challenges. It required viewable presentation of both sides as well as protection from damaging UV rays and from the atmospheric moisture of the Northwest.  

A preliminary sketch shows a first attempt at solving some of these problems. Such sketches allow the client to better visualize the project and to offer suggestions of refinement.

IMG_20180304_0001 (1).jpg

Dry vellum, or animal hide, is notoriously hygroscopic, and when exposed to moisture it harbors the potential for catastrophic buckling and the development of mold. Ambient moisture condenses where there is a differential between the temperature of the air and the surface that air contacts. Glass usually has a greater differential than plexiglass, so we chose a UV protective plex for this frame. We spaced the piece 3/8 inches deep, keeping the vellum a safe distance from the interior surface of the glazing. The piece came to us pre-matted, so to match the antique white tone, the interior walls of the frame were coated with an artist-grade acrylic paint. (We apologize for the glare -- while expedient, phone cameras do not offer the anti-glare capability of proper lighting and polarized filters.)

Double-side frame.jpg
Double-sided frame 2.jpg
Double-sided frame 3.jpg
Double-sided frame 4.jpg

 It would have been tempting to overwhelm this piece with an ornate frame, with gilding and the rolling scrollwork and sgraffito often seen in older tabernacle frames. We chose a simple oiled-cherry profile with a weighted pediment and walnut splines that paid tribute to historical precedent but also maintained the clean simple lines of today’s aesthetic.

Julia McCune Flory

Author and artist, Julia McCune Flory (1882-1971) was one of the first women to attend the Art Student’s League of New York. While her book illustrations are mildly lyrical, her oil paintings and prints often make dramatic use of sweeping curvilinear forms, indicative of Art Nouveau style. Flory used these dynamic lines to generate powerful visual movement. Even this small, peaceful print (Beneficent Being, 4x6 inches, 1931) invokes a vast dynamism that extends beyond the borders of the paper.

Julia McCune Flory Water-gilded Frame.jpg

The image shows signs of fugitive pigments – the colors used are not lightfast and must be preserved from further fading with UV protective glass.

We selected a small drawing profile with the proper amount of movement to suit the piece. The frame is a double-gilded 23K gold leaf over custom-made brown clay, the choice of which we keyed off the sepia tone seen throughout the piece.

Along with this piece, we framed an academic portrait of Flory posing for classmates while at the Art Student’s League, the signature of the piece seems to read “H.B. Moam”.  

Portrait of Julia McCune Flory.jpg

(Note: The cropping of this photo distorts the outer edge of the frame -- the profile is actually uniform in appearance).

The paper very much resembles a contemporary charcoal drawing paper, “Ingres”, by Fabriano, an Italian paper mill that has been in production for centuries. However, no watermark is discernible: the piece was at some point fixed to a type of cardboard. Likely due to acids in the substrate, both board and paper are now quite brittle, with corners crumbling to dust.

This custom milled profile was oil-gilded with silver leaf, gently rubbed through then sealed and warmed with shellac and given an antiquing of umber pigment with a loose application to better compliment the strong gestural marks of the drawing.

A Special Request

While Linden and Leaf is primarily concerned with custom framing of fine art, we occasionally take on commissions of furniture design. A client approached us with the desire for end-tables with tops and shelves made of wide, single-slab wood.  This sounded like a bad idea. Wide boards of wood, inherently unstable, no matter how flat when milled, will twist, cup, and move with seasonal shifts in temperature and humidity.


The client’s wife specified a desire that the project reflect the traditional joinery methods of her Japanese heritage: no metal fasteners, wood only. Often Western tables will have hidden metal hardware connecting tabletops to an apron below, allowing for the wood’s seasonal movement. We arrived at a design, combining Japanese and Mid-century Modern aesthetics.

From a frame-maker’s perspective, the tabletops would be the art, elevated and presented by the lightly distressed birch carcass – or frame.  Originally these boards were to be made from khaya, a type of African mahogany. However, mid-way through the project, while at the lumberyard for a different purpose, we found a rare treasure: a fourteen-inch wide board of wildly grained walnut that could provide all four of the slabs required by the design. We called the client on the spot to get approval for the upgrade.

The design utilized two runners to support the slabs. These runners offered significant vertical rigidity against cupping while being narrow enough to allow for the flexing associated with latitudinal expansion and contraction.


The lower shelves are supported in the same manner, with all corners tucked within the dimensions of the carcass to avoid catching any passing ankles. The multi-layer finish, like all of our finishes, was not sprayed, but applied by hand. 

Alicia Tormey

Recently we had the opportunity to frame and install an Alicia Tormey encaustic triptych for a private collector. To see more of Alicia's work, look here: https://www.aliciatormey.com

custom walnut frame triptych.jpg

Tormey’s use of wax, pigment, and shellac is both calm and dynamic, lucid yet enigmatic. To best complement the piece, we designed a minimalist walnut float frame, only half an inch wide, with a flowing grain pattern and custom warm tones. The miters on such frames are always reinforced with splines as shown here.   

custom walnust frame spline.jpg
custom walnut frame corner.jpg

Months later we were excited when Tormey asked us to make presentation boxes for two experimental pieces at her solo show at the Hall Spassov Gallery: http://hallspassov.com. These boxes were eight inches per side, allowing them to be made from single lengths of walnut board, cut and assembled so that the graining of the wood flowed uninterrupted across three of the four miters.

custom walnut shadow box gilded 3.jpg
custom walnut shadow box gilded silver leaf.jpg
custom walnut shadow box gilded silver leaf 2.jpg

The interiors were oil-gilded with silver leaf and then hand-toned and sealed with amber shellac. The silver leaf acted almost like a mirror to softly diffuse and reflect light back into the pieces of art: hand-made “Specimens” encapsulated in glass jars. The overall effect, intimate in scope, is one of vibrant nostalgia and mystery. 

Tenaya Sims

Tenaya Sims is a highly talented Seattle-based classically trained oil painter, teacher, and the founder of The Georgetown Atelier. http://georgetownatelier.com

Tenaya’s work, Semillas, won Best In Show in the 12th International ARC Salon Competition.  This piece was chosen out of over 3,000 submissions from 63 countries. To learn more about the ARC, follow this link: https://www.artrenewal.org

Tenaya's masterful painting also received a Purchase Prize, and is seen here as part of a traveling show at the MEAM (European Museum of Modern Art) in Barcelona, Spain. 

custom float frame and stretcher bars.jpg
custom cherry frame and stretcher bars.jpg

Linden and Leaf is proud to build custom stretcher-bars and cherry float frames for Tenaya’s work, including Semillas. More recently, we fabricated knock-down float frames with special joinery hardware, and retrofitted fixed-corner stretcher bars with the same type of hardware. This process allowed the work to be shipped in a more compact fashion than would large, fixed-frame stretchers and frames. These pieces were then reassembled on-sight at a show in Philadelphia.

custom float frame and stretcher bars for tenaya sims.jpg

We also constructed a partitioned crate that could contain the frames, hardware, stretcher bars, and two rolled canvasses suspended within the crate via end-cap tubes (the canvasses, if rolled, benefit from not making contact with the sidewalls of the crate). At 118.5 inches in length, the crate fell within two inches of the freight limits of our shipping carrier. 

large custom art crate.jpg
large custom art crate 2.jpg