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


A diversity of coexisting styles is found in the 17th century, such as Dutch black frames and Italian Leaf frames. A naturalistic leaf frame appeared in the second half of the century and was attributed to the Dutch-born English sculptor and wood-carver Grinling Gibbons. Also in the second half of the 17th century, a frame very similar to the contemporaneous Dutch abstracted leaf frame with its sinuous carving style is the English Sunderland.

This style was named for Robert Spencer, the second Earl of Sutherland, who had many paintings framed in this style. The English made variations on the Canaletto frame from Venice in the last quarter of the 17th century. This became known as the Lely frame, for the portraits of Sir Peter Lely that often bear such frames. A number of architects and designers devised picture frames, including William Kent, Thomas Chippendale, Robert and James Adams, and John Linnell. The Kential frame, often featured crossetted corners and classical ornament details, typical of Kent’s treatment of doorways and over mantels. Chippendale designed a range of styles as Chinoiserie, Louis XV, and Neo- Gothic, while Robert Adam is credited with the rediscovery of composition, used in a delicately neoclassical style.

English Louis the XV style frames goes a step further than the French in the emphasis of their curvilinear silhouettes. The Neoclassical Maratta frame is named after 17th century Roman painter Carlo Maratta, and was a popular variant of the Italian Salvatore Rosa frame in the last quarter of the 18th century. The Pre-Raphaelite painters, concerned for craftsmanship, were the first group of artists in England to seek alternatives to mass-produced frames. Since 1840 they had designed or commissioned craftsmen who were willing to produce frames tailored to their aesthetic taste.

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