When the Frame is Worth More Than the Picture

Bonhams next sale of fine pictures frames at Knightsbridge on March 5th includes a number of magnificent examples of 16th to 18th Century frames.

Jeremy Waite, Head of Pictures at Bonhams in Knightsbridge says: “These lovely objects are works of art in their own right. They would add beauty and glamour to any room they were hung in. Used with the right kind of picture they add to the impact of the image.”

The workmanship that is evident in these frames is clear to see in the art of the wood carver. Interior designers wishing to create rooms with an elegant and timeless ambience increasingly seek out the soft glow of these gilded objects.

Some of the top lots in the sale include: Lot 108 an Italian 18th Century carved, gilded and polychromed frame estimated to sell for £2,500 to £3,500. Lot 28 is another that stands out, an Italian late 16th century parcel gilt and black painted cassetta frame – estimate £2,500 to £3,500. Lot 188 is a Tuscan 16th Century ebonised and parcel gilt cassetta frame also at £2,500 to £3,500.

The sale offers some 347 frames many of which are very affordable, some estimated to sell for as little as £150. Each though is an object of beauty and comes with a mystery – the small matter of what image they once held.

A frame says almost as much about the taste of the owner as the picture it encloses. The frame will speak of craftsmanship, an aesthetic understanding of the art it showcases and links the painting to the other furniture in the room in which it hangs. In fact frames have a hidden language understandable to those in the know.

Frames have been there almost since art came off the walls of caves. In fact there are examples of cave art which in fact do have frames drawn round them. Frames are used to accentuate and heighten the drama and impact of an image.