Early Picture Frames Were Often Decorated
Picture frames have changed over the years, along with the type of picture they contain. In earlier years, most frames were made to order to fit a picture or portrait, and often decorated by the same artist.
From 1775 to 1850, painted frames were used, with false graining like that used for furniture. Mahogany and walnut, two of the expensive woods, were commonly imitated on a soft pine wood for ordinary households.
Also common were frames with painted or stenciled flower and leaf decorations. Geometric designs in different colors were also painted on.
Silhouettes took the place of opainted portraits for many less well-to-do people, and they were often mounted in a frame painted with bold stripes alternating with diamonds, circlews or stars.
A broad black molding with a narrow gilded inner molding which had been carved in a foliate design was likely to be used to frame an engraving, embroidery work, or pastel picture.
There were also frames covered with wallpaper.
By later in the 19th century, ornately carved wooden frames of mahogany, rosewood, maple and walnut were more commonly used, as America’s middle class increased. In addition, the potteries of Vermont and Ohio were making brown Rockingham-glazed pottery frames and foundries were producing frames of cast iron.
Frames wre also subject of the do-it-yurself craze aong women late in the 19th century. few really handy women used a jig saw to cut wooden frames. Others were making their frame of straw, string, silk, linen, plush and even cattail stems.
By the end of the Vitorian era, frames of natural color decorated with shallow caraving were commonly used, especially for family pictures. Many of these frames crisscrosed at the corners, where some kind of an ornament might be plaed, such as a china button. There were always those who were especially exuberant in their tastes and from one of these you might find a frame made of walnut with walnut shells glued all over it for emphasis.
If you’re buying an old picture, pay attention to the frame. It will sometimes be more interesting than the picture itself.
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