Italian Frames: Spanning the period from the 12th to late 17th centuries


During the early Renaissance in Italy, large frames that were designed to resemble architecture were used for altar pieces, with classical architectural details replacing gothic. By the second quarter of the 15th century, an abbreviated form of the altar piece, housing a single image, evolved in Venice and Tuscany. This was the so-called Tabernacle frame. Another form of the same period of Tuscan origin was the Tondo, or round frame, with its characteristic decoration of wreaths of flowers, fruits and leaves.

By the late 15th century the other elements of the Tabernacle frame – the base, the pediment, the entablature, the flanking columns or pilasters -- were often omitted. This simple form is referred to as the plate frame, the panel frame, or the Cassetta (little box). In Italy during the 16th and 17th centuries, the finishing, gilding, painting, and embellishing of the Cassetta developed by region. The frame type specific to 16th century Venice is known as the Sansovino. It is named after the Florentine-Venetian Mannerist architect and sculptor Jacopo Sansovino, and had a complex silhouette typical of the Baroque. In the 16th and 17th centuries Florence, another kind of leaf frame appeared with scrolls and foliage that determined the silhouette of the outside of the frame. In the last third of the 17th century in Rome, a Neoclassical frame called Salvatore Rosa was first seen, which was usually on paintings by Rosa or two later artists, Carlo Maratta and Pompeo Batoni. These frames have a profile of a concave panel with a convex inner and outer edge.

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