A Look At The History Of Framing

When we think of frames the first thing that comes up in our mind is a simple border that goes around a painting, hanging on a wall, used as a decoration to our home and workplace. However, there is much more than that. The art of framing goes beyond the classical wooden structure. Frames had an ongoing change in style, in history, and different parts of the world.

If we take a close look at the ancient chinese painting, we can notice that people at that time used different materials to embellish their pieces. Mounting was critical to chinese art as it helped to preserve and adorn the finished work.

Hanging Scroll

One of the mounting technique that was largely adopted was the hanging scroll, popularly used in east asia to display paintings or calligraphy. It is characterized by its mountage on paper with a stave at the top connected with a hanging cord and at the bottom with a roller.  The hanging scroll was originally developed from silk banners since 206 BC back to the Han Dynasty in China, and it is still used today for interior decoration. It was slowly introduced to Japan and other parts of East Asian countries and it has quickly found a place in their culture and art. Hanging scroll takes about two weeks to nine months to make, with a process called “wet mounting”  by polishing the back with chinese wax, fitting rod and roller at the extremity.

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Another popular mounting technique used in East Asia was the brocade, a rich woven fabric, also used to display and preserve chinese painting. The use of the right color and design can help accentuate the painting. In order to mount a  silk brocade, the artist needs to paste a sheet of unrefined rice paper at the back of the picture and eventually choose and paste a matching brocade design bigger than the picture to form a border.

In the western world, artists adopted different styles of decoration following the trends of that period. We can divide the timeline in different era: Renaissance, Baroque and Victorian.

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During the renaissance era, artists focused more on different kinds of wood, depending on the style and quality of the painting, the most suitable was adopted to match. Some lower quality wood include poplar, spruce and pine. Higher quality wood were walnut, chestnut and elm which were used for upperclassman for more fine profiles.

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The art of Baroque is characterized with a lot of ornaments, bold and extravagant borders. Artists were highly concentrated on details and tended to incline more on the theme of nature. The resemblance of leaves in many frames were a typical ornament at the time. The popular material used were ebony, gold, silver, pietre dure, ivory and amber.

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During the Victorian Era, the design of the frames were less complex. It is the era where “composition”, a casting material, replaced the traditional wood. Artists started using intricate molds to create bold ornamentation and fine textures for framing. The design were sophisticated and decorated in a way to impress the house guests.

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