Frames - more on their history by Jeannine Cook

I was poking about on the Web to learn more about the history of frames, and for anyone who is interested, there is a wonderful website done by Paul Mitchell, an antique and reproduction frame-maker and conservator of paintings in the UK. Entitled "A short history of the Frame", it makes for concise and fascinating reading for anyone who is interested in how a frame can enhance (as well as protect) a work of art, as well as the evolution of frames.

View of a frame-maker's workshop, oil on canvas, c 1900. (Image courtesy of Dorotheum)

View of a frame-maker's workshop, oil on canvas, c 1900. (Image courtesy of Dorotheum)

By the same token, the changes in taste that dictate a type of frame on a painting at one point and an entirely different one at another period are wonderfully chronicled by a short paragraph about the framing over time of the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece hanging in the Louvre.

It reminds me of a wonderful story told with great glee by my beloved godfather, the late Reverend Richard H. Randolph, SJ. He was standing in front of a painting in London's National Gallery one day, and turning to his companion, he remarked that he felt the frame was entirely wrong for the work of art. He then described how he would re-frame it, and as he was talking, he noticed a distinguished-looking man was standing behind him, listening intently. He thought no more of the incident until, on his next visit to the same Museum gallery, he saw that the picture in question had been re-framed – exactly as he had described! The gentleman behind him turned out to be the then-Director of the National Gallery, an attentive audience!

More on frames for art by Jeannine Cook

Back on 20th September, I was blogging about framing my art. I mentioned the marvellous riches of historical frames in various museums, especially in the Budapest Fine Arts Museum.

Now I read of a special exhibition of art frames going on display at the Alte Pinakothek in Munich from the Art Daily brief from 19th December. Many years ago, when I spent hours of marvelling at art in the august Alta Pinakothek, I remember being impressed at the diversity and richness of the frames surrounding their very wonderful collection of paintings. I am not surprised that they should have thus curated an exhibition to highlight the art of frame-making.

Apparently they sorted through some 4000 frames and paintings to find the 92 which are on display. They span four centuries and many types, from 16th century case frames to Rococo types, with Classicist and Empire styles in between. Inlaid frames, miniature frames, Dutch cabinet frames and Lutma frames - they are apparently all there to be marvelled at, with additional explanations on frame-making and techniques. For example, Lutma frames were called thus because they were initially made by the leading Dutch silversmith in the 1630s, Johannes Lutma. He would place a cartouche on an elaborate gilded frame at the bottom, with a coat of arms or an inscription in it.

For anyone going to Munich in the near future, this could be a fascinating insight into the complement of art that can so often make or break the initial impact and impression of a piece of art.