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Dutch Black Picture Frame
Streets of Tangiers. Antique Dutch Black Frame by Charles Douglas

The Dutch Black frame has a beautifully complex tone with hints of raw umber and sienna. It's a very commanding finish. On the proper frame profile, subtle gilded highlights in antiqued white gold or silver can add another dimension but it stands very well on its own. ~Charles Douglas

The predilection for frame finishes during 17th century Holland steered away from the opulence of the gold leaf gilded frames being produced at the time in France and Italy. Tastes tended more towards simpler, earthier tones as seen on the frames of Vermeer and Rembrandt and as shown below on Rembrandt's early self-portrait which hangs today at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Many of the early, ripple-style frames, however, were actually manufactured in countries such as Germany and Spain and thought of as 'Dutch' because of their extensive use in Holland.
Frames were often painted black in a form of ebonizing, due to the limited availability and cost of ebony. Considering the wide use of this approach the finish has come to be known in certain circles as Dutch Black.
Charles Douglas has spent over a decade perfecting the Dutch Black finish and uses a variety of approaches. The method used to achieve a deep, antique umber-black tone involves painting a custom blend of casein onto finely sanded wood which is sometimes burned with a torch for deeper colorization. Numerous layers of ruby shellac are brushed or padded on, depending on the shape of the frame profile, and hand-rubbed between each layer.
For a somewhat deeper variation he also offers what he refers to as Early American Black, based on original techniques used in in both America and Holland during the 17th and 18th centuries. This exquisite finish combines lampblack pigment and ruby shellac, prepared in his studio from shellac flakes and alcohol. As many as ten coats are applied, each layer hand-rubbed. Early American cabinetmakers referred to this finish simply as Black Varnish.
The use of Dutch and Early American black frames offer an excellent choice on certain works of art such as portraits in oil as well as for mirrors. The toning texture can be represented as a modern finish, smooth and free of distress, or enhanced with various antiqued effects, a vocabulary achieved through various means including the deposit of gray and umber pigments in crevices, washes, and rubbing-through to the wood on high points to signify age. Often, a simple and occasional  rub-through to the wood and moderate distress provides the most attractive and sophisticated finish.
For further information or assistance, please contact Charles at his studio at the phone number or email address shown below.

Antique Dutch Black finish by Charles Douglas
Antique Dutch Black Frame by Charles Douglas (Painting by Paul Conrad, Market Art Center-Seattle)

rembrandt self portrait
Rembrandt, early self-portrait, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
dutch black frame of alhambra photograph
Dutch Black Frame by Charles Douglas (photograph of Alhambra by Ian Douglas)

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by appointment
Gasworks Gallery Building
3815 4th Avenue NE
Seattle, WA 98105
(Corner of  4th and N. Northlake Way
across from Ivar's on the
northern end of Lake Union)
Phone: (206) 795-8376

email: charles.studio@usa.net