Framing and conservation framing: the origins

On September 4, 2012 by webmaster

During ancient times, paintings, wood carvings or mosaics were often surrounded by a decorated border which is said to be the precursor of the frame. It was in the later part of the Middle Ages and then of course during the Renaissance that ensuring the protection of paintings and prints became a profession, an art profession.


A frame was then thin which with time developped to have ornamentations that made the frame a work of art in itself.  Several era in history, often associated with a monarch or associated with a particular region in Europe: for instance, Louis XIII, Gustavian Victorian Flamand, Florentine, Venetian gave their name to the frame.


A thin frame was initially only stained or painted and then soon became embellished with precious wood veneer or tortoiseshell or ivory. During the Renaissance, the emergence in Europe of beaten gold leaf gilding allowed frames to  become a precious and a work of expertise. This is the reason why there is a long tradition in Europe of gilted frames.


Until the late eighteenth century, frames were carved in different woods depending on the region, often oak or linden, but also pine and sycamore. Then, the first frames with moulding appeared: first using “English” paste and then terracotta. It further develops with the apparition of products such as plaster moulding, the Blanc de Meudon and rabbit skin glue.


Regarding the part of the frame directly under the glass, it was simply placed on a paper background and slightly stained or painted, with perhaps one or more threads.  During the eighteenth century, the use of washes and surrounds dyed or golden threads enhance the engravings.


The nineteenth century ensured the complete revolution of the frame with new materials (steel, plastic, wood ceruse, agglomerate or resin). Tinted laminated mouldings allowed the imagination, taste and technique of modern picture framer to really play a part in the development and protection of our artistic heritage.


In the late twentieth century, other new conservation products (non-acidic paper, glass anti-glare) became necessary tools to preserve the integrity of the work of art.


Comments are closed.