A picture frame as we know it is a rigid panel placed at the edge of a piece of art for support and protection during display. It, moreover, has an aesthetic role to play by enhancing the beauty of the art itself. Since they first appeared in AD 50-70, they have continued to evolve through different periods of time. In these early days of framing, picture frames were simple, plain, and wooden. They were used for functionality rather than as expressions of art. Today, picture frame moldings contribute to the looks of a framed art piece just as the art itself, serving both beauty and functionality.
Between these two different times, the level of detail and embellishment applied on the frames has fluctuated from one period to the other. Here, we look at the changes which the art of framing has undergone over the ages.
The Early Frames
One of the earliest frames date back to AD 50-70, during Ancient Egypt, and were found perfectly preserved next to mummies in the Egyptian tombs. Most frames around that time were simply made of wood and in basic designs. Here, the same piece of wood was made for the frame as well as the painting, making them inseparable.
The Medieval Period of Europe
The world of framing during the medieval period of Europe was marked by complexly embellished and gold lacquered frames. These are the frames that would in the present day be referred to as antiques. The first wooden frame to be carved in the 12th and 13 centuries brought about decorative aspects to the initially plain frames.
The popularly used materials of the time were pine, poplar, and oak. For more exquisite frames, expensive types of wood such as walnut and ebony were the preferred choices.
Frames had started to become more elaborate by the time the renaissance was rolling in. Frames became an intricate part of the church’s’ décor. They played the role of borders to separate various paintings and areas within the church. Heavier wood was used in the large framed pieces found in the church altars. This is so that they could provide structural support on top of being decorative elements.
Tabernacle frames had become dominant at the onset of the renaissance. These frames that borrowed from the Gothic architecture constituted of an ornate top and base with pillars to support them on both sides. The other popular framing style during this period was the Cassetta frame from which the modern-day frame design is based on.
More considerations began to be made in terms of the type of wood to be used for particular frames depending on their purpose, structural or decorative. Fancy frames decorated with precious stones and metals such as ivory and pearls also began to make an appearance. Portrait frames were used to symbolize wealth and power. The more the details that were added on the frame of a certain portrait, the more wealthy and powerful that individual was.
The Industrialization of Frames
As interest in art outside of the church began to grow, so did the moveable pieces, contrary to the former immobile pieces that were part of the church’s structure, start to become more common, bringing new framing techniques with it.
Due to a large amount of time taken to carve out the complex details and patterns on wood, the papier-mache was introduced in the 17th century which made it possible for frames to be decorated by simply pressing patterns on them.
Composition ornament, simply known as “compo”, is also another material that aimed to replace the ornamentation of frames through wood carvings. This is a moldable material that would be pressed on molds to achieve certain designs and later layered on basic wooden frames.
Picture frame moldings and more simplified designs during this time facilitated a faster and easier production of frames to meet the growing demand.
Modern Era Frames
As the world reached the late 1800s, there began mass production of frames. Artists were however not happy about this claiming their right to the frame as part of their artwork. Impressionists at the time took to simplistic white frame designs. Other artists incorporated color and decorative elements in their frames.
Framing styles began to differ according to personal style, preferences, and the kind of art. In the modern world, a digital era has brought about even more versatility to the art of framing.
Just like any other artwork, the art of framing gets to evolve as time progresses. From the vintage adorned wooden carvings to the modern-day contemporary picture frame moldings, the history surrounding framing styles is something to appreciate.