Punchwork

During the Italian Renaissance, frame makers created a number of techniques that today exemplify the periods love for ornamentation. One such technique is punchwork.

Biago d’Antonio’s Scenes from the Story of the Argonauts showcases the lavish decorative strategies employed by Renaissance artists and craftsmen (image courtesy of metmuseum.org)
Biago d’Antonio’s Scenes from the Story of the Argonauts showcases the lavish decorative strategies employed by Renaissance artists and craftsmen (image courtesy of metmuseum.org)

Often applied in a decorative pattern, punchwork appears in panels, corners, and embellishments to create texture and dramatize the effect of gold as well as the wood’s carved pattern. European framers may know punchwork by the name “Bulinatura,” which is Italian for “engraving.” Our recent gilding video briefly showed the process, but if you missed it, a short refresher is below.

In Lowy’s frame collection, punchwork abounds. Patterns in scrolling and floral designs appear on small and large frames alike. The technique is seen covering small sections, or it is used to produce lines that wrap and wind around the gilt surface. Set amidst carved embellishments, such textured patterns on flat surfaces serve both practical and aesthetic functions.

L6700

L6851

L7395

L7616

L6851 copy

Though developed in the 16th and 17th centuries, punchwork and other surface effects saw renewed interest during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, after the introduction of compo frames. With composition, frame makers faced complaints about the harsh effect of gilt plaster and had to look for ways to soften the glare. Techniques that produce texture, including punchwork, served this purpose by dulling certain areas in decorative ways. Often, these forms of modern punchwork articulate texture more dramatically than the Renaissance predecessors, re-imagining the effect as dotted fields of opulent, shimmering gold.L1456

For more information about punchwork and Lowy’s collection of 5,000 antique frames, please call 212-861-8585 or visit www.lowyonline.com.

L7616 copy

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