Frame of the week: A Renaissance rarity

This week’s featured work is an extremely rare 15th century Florentine carved and gilt tabernacle frame with fluted pilaster and Corinthian capitals. 


A rare carved and gilt tabernacle frame from 15th century Florence

During the Renaissance, Italy was the center of the frame world, and most frames were used in a religious context, typically carved out of the same piece of wood as the panel painting that surrounded it. 

In time, they were liberated from the ecclesiastical world that had been their primary home, and lighter, more versatile frames stepped out onto a new stage.  These frames were proudly displayed at court and in royal households, regal reminders of the wealth and elevated status of their owners.

The tabernacle, or aedicular frame, which first appeared in Italy in the early 15th century, was a smaller and more portable version of its architectural-inspired antecedents, often including pilasters and columns.  This kind of frame could add a touch of the sacred to more secular surroundings.


Detail of 15th century Florentine tabernacle frame’s Corinthian capital

Whether on display in a church or in a palace, frames were significant works of art in their own right.  They were commissioned by rich patrons, who used them to display their wealth, and were fashioned by artists and artisans to showcase their talents.  In fact, it was not unusual for a patron to engage a carver to build a substantial frame before an artist was retained to create a painting for it. 

Frame and furniture workshops flourished throughout Italy and at that moment in time, the successful framer was equal to any artist, and the work of one complimented the work of the other. 

The tabernacle style frame has retained its popularity for centuries.  In a blog post two weeks ago, (June 11), we featured an exquisite tabernacle frame designed by Stanford White circa 1900.

For more information on Lowy’s collection of rare, unique and custom frames, please visit or call 212-861-8585.


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