Sansovino Frames

Known for buildings such as the Libreria Sansoviniana, the 16th-century sculptor and architect Jacopo Sansovino inspired vivid, fanciful designs in the style of frames bearing his moniker. Sansovino frames were festooned with elaborate embellishments such as pelt-like cartouches, volutes, winged cherub heads, masks, scrolling clasps and Moorish strapwork.

A 17th-century Italian carved, gilt and walnut Sansovino frame, ornamented with scrolls, volutes and floral swag, with broken pediment surrounding the winged cherub head at top.
A 17th-century Italian carved, gilt and walnut Sansovino frame, ornamented with scrolls, volutes and floral swag, with broken pediment surrounding the winged cherub head at top.

Born in Florence and based in Venice, Sansovino the architect dominated his field while Florence’s art scene was flowering during the Renaissance. The period’s complementary innovations in architecture, engineering, visual art, mathematics and medicine were grounded in the rediscovery of classical texts and artifacts. This influence can be seen in the embellished scrolls and the use of mathematical ratios, similar to that which figured prominently in Greco-Roman art and architecture.

El Greco, Christ Carrying the Cross (image courtesy of metmuseum.org)
El Greco, Christ Carrying the Cross (image courtesy of metmuseum.org)

Because Sansovino frames are so bold, they are best displayed on equally bold works of art. Works such as the above painting by El Greco of Christ carrying the cross complement the strong forms and heavy style of the frame.

To inquire about purchasing this frame or any of the 5,000 other antique frames Lowy has available, please call 212-861-8585 or visit www.lowyonline.com.

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Stopping the Time Warp

The Art Deco artist Jean Dupas created forms using a bold, structural visual style. Lowy recently conserved and framed his Allegorie de Tissu, or “allegory of fabric,” featuring a whirling mélange of cylindrically constructed figures, both draped and nude, either reclining, standing or leaping. Big, bold and brave, this nearly eleven-foot canvas testifies to both the artist’s ambition and his compositional skills, and the frame showcases what Lowy’s expert craftsmen can do on a large scale.

Jean Dupas’ Allegorie de Tissu in a custom Lowy frame, 40” x 129”
Jean Dupas’ Allegorie de Tissu in a custom Lowy frame, 40” x 129”

As framers and art connoisseurs know, wood changes naturally over time from a straight line into a subtle curve. This means that an especially large frame must be structured in a way that prevents it from twisting and warping. For the Dupas frame, Lowy’s team of frame designers collaborated to replace a portion of the wood support with an aluminum c-channel and steel brackets to join the miters. The result is a gilded frame that will withstand time. The metal supports are virtually un-bendable and provide a critical substrate for this type of frame.

Lowy’s master gilder, R. Wayne Reynolds, screws in the miter
Lowy’s master gilder, R. Wayne Reynolds, screws in the miter

The frame is also reversible at the miters so that it will fit through the client’s entryway.

A look at the frame’s mount and miter, complete with steel bracket and aluminum c-channel
A look at the frame’s mount and miter, complete with steel bracket and aluminum c-channel

As the Allegory de Tissu proves, no challenge is too massive for Lowy’s master framers. For more information about reproduction or conservation services, or our collection of more than 5,000 antique frames, please call 212-861-8585 or visit www.lowyonline.com.

Featured Frame of the Week!

This week’s frame is an American gilt composition frame from the third quarter of the 19th century. During this time, frame-making had undergone a revolution of materials, transitioning from the slow and methodical process of carving wood substrates to a faster and less expensive composition mold. Composition is a mixture of chalk or whiting, animal glue, linseed oil and resin that was used occasionally through the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries, but was not widespread until the late 1800s.

American gilt Rococo-style composition frame with extended scrolling foliate corners on panels textured with netting in a velvet-lined black shadow box exhibiting incised corners
American gilt Rococo-style composition frame with extended scrolling foliate corners on panels textured with netting in a velvet-lined black shadow box exhibiting incised corners

Often referred to as plaster, composition was a positive and practical development in framemaking. Framers could duplicate the styles of earlier carved frames, capturing their opulence quickly and inexpensively. Numerous antique composition frames are now seen on paintings from important public and private collections, such as London’s National Portrait Gallery and the New York Historical Society.

A view inside the composition studio at George Jackson & Sons during the 19th century (image courtesy of thehousemag.com)
A view inside the composition studio at George Jackson & Sons during the 19th century (image courtesy of thehousemag.com)

To learn more about other compo frames in the Lowy collection, part of our larger collection of more than 5,000 antique frames, please call 212-861-8585 or visit www.lowyonline.com.

A Tabernacle Frame

Certain paintings can’t be fit with just any frame. For artist Lorenzo Monaco’s 15th-century panel painting, pictured below, Lowy was called upon to create a frame that curved with the work’s rounded top half and rectangular bottom half. The resulting tabernacle frame draws on the architecture of Gothic churches, which combined classical motifs including arched columns with patterns and proportions that became popular during and after the Renaissance. In its design, the frame echoes the hybrid style of the painting.

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Making this frame was particularly challenging because the panel had curved over a long period of time. Such curving is a common phenomenon: Panels and other surfaces used by artists, especially those involving wood, will often adopt a new shape after a few years according to the natural movements of the material. This required Lowy’s artisans to design a frame that not only fit the unique shape of the panel but also looked like it had warped along with the panel.

A look at how the frame was constructed
A look at how the frame was constructed

For more information about frame production or any of the 5,000 other antique frames that Lowy has available, please call 212-861-8585 or visit http://www.lowyonline.com.

Featured Frame of the Week!

This week’s featured frame is a dark, 17th-century Dutch veneer frame of reverse profile. Costly woods, often from the Dutch colonies, were used to make frames such as these, which provided a rich and dramatic contrast to the light walls used to brighten narrow homes.

Parcel-gilt Dutch carved frame of reverse profile with veneered panels, various rows of ripple and basketweave moldings
Parcel-gilt Dutch carved frame of reverse profile with veneered panels, various rows of ripple and basketweave moldings

A frame such as this may have appeared surrounding a Flemish portrait or allegorical painting from the 16th or 17th century, such as Caspar Netscher’s The Card Party.

Caspar Netscher, The Card Party (image courtesy of metmuseum.org)
Caspar Netscher, The Card Party (image courtesy of metmuseum.org)

Fanciful and bright gilt frames were also made during this time, but the sober dark woods were popular for two reasons. First, the new Protestant styles were more subdued than the showy tendencies of Catholic churches. Second, houses in the Netherlands were taxed according to their frontage, which encouraged narrower homes with pale walls that maximized natural light. Darkly luminous frames in deep browns and reds would have vividly highlighted a work of art against such an alabaster backdrop.

To inquire about purchasing this frame or any of the 5,000 other antique frames Lowy has available, please call 212-861-8585 or visit http://www.lowyonline.com.