This week’s featured frame is a rare Italian carved and gilt cassetta frame with a polychrome sgraffito frieze forming corners and centers. The frieze is made up of an acanthus pattern and complemented by rows of carved beaded ornaments.
According to Greek mythology, the acanthus got its name from a beautiful wood nymph, Acantha, who was transformed into a spiny plant or tree by the god Apollo after she refused his romantic advances. The plant flourished in the Mediterranean, where it was first introduced as a design element. Acanthus leaves were extremely popular among artists and architects in ancient Greece and Italy, where they were used to adorn Corinthian capitals and other stonework.
The acanthus appeared in frame designs as early as the 15th century and has maintained its popularity among frame makers in different countries for hundreds of years. Imaginative interpretations of the leaf can be found on early Italian, Spanish and French frames and later on American frames of the 19th and 20th centuries. It was such a familiar symbol in the artistic world that when the Victorians developed the Language of Flowers, a dictionary of flowers and plants and the messages they communicated, the meaning ascribed to acanthus was “art” or “artifice.”
For more information on Lowy’s collection of 5,000 antique frames, please visit www.lowyonline.com or call 212-861-8585.