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.