History Of Picture Framing

With the French revolution, people turned away from all evidences of bourgeois

wealth and returnedto a refreshing simplicity. Until 1850 all Moldings were cut

from rough boards by hand, but with the invention of laborsaving machinery,

frames could be put on the market for what the raw material had cost previously.

This country was fortunately spared from the use of molded ornaments until the

advent of the Victorian era. American frames up to that time were relatively

simple and dignified, very often using only natural, stained wood and a gilded

insert The carving, when used, was restricted to the classical forms of

ornamentation for specific molding shapes.

The frame-makers who constructed the monstrosities of the Victorian era were not

content to put one heavily embellished gold frame around a picture of "The Stag

at Bay" or something similar, but three or four. This birthday cake was then

enclosed in a glass-covered, plush-lined, mahogany shadow-box. This was presumably

for protection, but its need is a mystery since the interiors of that time were

heavily shaded and hermetically sealed anyway.

Around 1900 there was a fashion for "Oxford", plush and cork-decorated frames.

Hours and hours were spent carving these horrors and fitting them intricately

together or in decorating frames with seg-ments of cork. They can be found only

rarely today, even in the higher priced second-hand stores, euphemistically

called "antique shops". But perhaps it is too early to drag out another "antique"

vogue. Mass production, to some degree at least, has forced a healthy simplification.