The primary function for all picture frames is to serve as a border encompassing a pictorial image. Secondly, they are to relate that image to its immediate surroundings; finally they must protect and set apart an item of spiritual value. The highly refined jewelry which decorated early altar pieces suggested the glories of heaven, and the elaborate altar pieces developed in the 14th and 15th century Italy imitated a mediaeval cathedral in a cross-section. These heavenly settings were the very beginning of picture frames. 16th century Italian designs were absorbed by the Spaniards, and by the mid-17th century, had converted it into a Spanish achievement.

In 17th century Flanders and Holland, paintings of all subject matters were produced for the rising merchant class, as well as for the nobility and the church. The first frames native to France are the Louis XIII style, from the beginning of the 17th century, and were derived from the garlands of fruit from the Della Robbia terracotta borders. During the second half of the 17th century, the Louis XIV style (essentially Baroque) found some air of classical discipline.

The court of Louis XV saw the creation of extravagantly sculptured frames, costing as much or more than the paintings. Before Louis XV was old enough to ascend to the throne, Phillipe II Duke of Orleans acted as Regent. The Regence style becomes a logical and graceful transition from Louis XIV to Louis XV styles. The British Palladian, or “Kent” frame, with distinctive outset corners (named after architect and designer William Kent) was derived from the late Mannerist work of Michelangelo, interpreted by Palladio. The Louis XVI of the second half of the 18th century was a return to Greece and Rome and the trend continued into the Empire style up to the 1830’s. Tragically, the tradition of design and craftsmanship was broken by the industrial revolution of the 1830’s in Europe

Available frame periods:

Italian Frames: Spanning the period from the 12th to late 17th centuries

Spanish Frames: Spanning the period from the 17th to the 18th centuries

Frames in the Low Countries, Germany and Austria: spanning the period from the 16th to the 19th centuries

French Frames: Spanning the periods of French frames

English Frames: Spanning the period from the 17th to the 19th centuries