History of Picture Frames - Why were picture frames invented
The earliest artwork to ever been found and that we are aware of - are cave paintings they were known to have no borders, demarcations, lines and absolutely no frames. Over time, paintings became associated with a border. Primarily framing of pictures was a way of presenting and showcasing one’s artwork. However, extensive research conducted shows that artists would use frames with the intention of separating scenes, a narrative so to speak. Famous and influential Dutch impressionist painter, Vincent Willem Van Gogh stated that “A picture without a frame is like a soul without a body”.
Have you ever thought about the history of frames as being an entire and complete narrative and separate from the history of art. Yes, there are multiple types of art that emerged through the centuries all stemming from different regions, people and civilizations and all sorts’ scenarios this is the same for the different types and variations of frames. Frames became a separate entity from art during the Florentine Renaissance which began in the 14th century and lasted through until the 17th century. During this period of time, framing artistic works were closely linked and associated with religious beliefs with the strong belief and notion that the “eyes are the window to the soul”.
Frames were used abundantly during this time for religious purposes or rather as symbolic factor. During this time “Altar Frames” gained popularity and prominence in the churches and cathedrals. The alter frames incorporated gold, gems, and mosaics. The craftsmanship was astounding and unmatched stemmed from the belief and attempt to create heaven on earth. In addition, during this time there was an emergence of prominent artists such as Donatello and Michellazo who greatly influenced other craftsmen and contributed to the concept of the frame as complete and separate in its own right.
Over time, frames exuded more than just religious symbolic stature they were used to elaborate the narrative. They could be used to expand on the meaning of the image or artwork it surrounded. They helped carry symbols or functioned as an extra field where additional information or footnoted could be depicted without interrupting the main text or message.
Picture frames give artwork levels of divine power; it aims to separate the subject from our world. By placing a frame around your picture, it gives the picture a step up, a covering or so to speak a barrier for protection from other variables. It appreciates your picture by giving it a validation of the content and context. Artists say that frames also allow the viewer to peek into the soul of the artwork, the creator, the narrative and its connection and meaning to us at different points in time.
Today there are varieties of the picture frame in different architectural styles- antique, industrial, bohemian, classic, glass among many others popularly made from different types of wood. Also, picture frames have since evolved from the standard “box-shaped” to tabernacle style with an elaborated top and bottom cross-section, round shape, tondo, etc.