Have you ever stopped to think about how a picture frame came to be? No? That’s OK, we are probably the only #framingaficionados around here! Well, Compliments Picture Framing director Scott Dawson reckons it’s high time we shared the history of picture frames with you.
Back in the day – we are talking about 2000BC – yes, you read that correctly – picture frames were simply breathtaking, ornate and extremely detailed, unlike the mass produced frames we see in many shops everywhere today.
It was a true craft and varied from country to country and culture to culture. Only true craftsmen were picture framers and they used all sorts of techniques, ones you wouldn’t even dream of! Most times, people look at the artwork inside the frame – but it is the frame that completes it and makes it stand out. Imagine the Mona Lisa without a frame. We shudder the thought!
So come along with me and step back into picture framing history.
Very first picture frame
The first ever picture frame, or what looks to be a portrait in a wooden picture frame, was found in an Egyptian tomb dating back to 2000BC, according Wikipedia. Frames were also made of silver and ivory for small mirrors and other precious artefacts.
12th and 13th centuries
But it was in the 12th and 13th centuries in Europe that the first carved wooden frames as we know them today appeared on small paintings. They were carved from one piece of timber. The Louvre in Paris has ornate frames on display from about the 15th century.
Of course, over time the framers found that carving one frame one piece of wood was way too costly and time consuming, so they started making them differently by using moulded strips that were attached to a wooden panel.
14th and 15th centuries
In the 14th and 15th centuries, “most European frames were church-commissioned and largely unmovable as they were altarpieces and a large part of the church’s architecture” according to Wikipedia.
But it was the Renaissance of 14th and 15th century Italy that gave rise to the framing of art as wealthy nobles started to have framed art hung in their estates – and it was moveable. The frames used colouring and gilding, and had amazing fine details like angels and faces. In France, business was booming and this really was the true era of frames as they came into their own as a necessity for all art pieces. Picture frames were popular as was interior design and decorating.
The English Renaissance frames were different; they were broad and flat, still with carved details, but more like flowers.
The 16th century in France only strengthened the picture framing craft and craftsmen started to experiment with different methods and techniques. They became more and more flamboyant, elaborate and extravagant and all of Europe was getting in on the action, including the Spain, Russia and Serbia. This resulted in the making of many different styles and types of picture frames in the past 500 years.
By the century, the French had started to use tortoiseshell and brass frames, but heavy wood frames were still the centre of attention.
Picture framing as people knew it took a dainty twist in the 18th century with lighter and finer designs during the French Rococo period. But the Chinese weighed in too having a heavy influence on the craft and using bamboo to make picture frames.
The 19th century was full of framing revolution from steam-pressed timber frames to more elaborate twists and patterns to painting on the frame. It was the Victorian period, which meant more and more walls needing more and more decoration and more and more frames. By the end of the century someone had invented a colour printer and offered a cheaper option to have “art” on the walls without it being proper painted art. So followed en masse of simple flat or bevelled polished timber frames. A lot of them had a simple gilded edge. These frames can still be found in antique shops, eBay and garage sales today.
Frames were affordable and made from just about any material you could think of, you don’t even need glass with Perspex available too. Canvases became popular and framing became cheaper. If you want to know what I think of that, check out this post: https://complimentspictureframing.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/end-of-a-picture-framing-era/
Good quality picture framing isn’t as popular as it was all those centuries ago because frames are so easily available from many different avenues, including the internet. But Compliments Picture Framing on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, believes people still want quality items and big, handmade, ornate frames are very much in demand.
Find out more about what we do and how Compliments Picture Framing on the Gold Coast is changing the picture framing world one rectangle at a time here at www.complimentspictureframing.com.au