|Germany and Central Europe
This way of regarding a retable frame as a decorative patterned margin influenced the development of subsequent altarpiece frames. The French Gothic style was slow to be accepted in Germany, and this meant that there were fewer alternatives than elsewhere to the evolution of richly patterned polychromed surface decorations as the defining boundaries of an image; moldings existed but were subsidiary to these colored motifs; and architectural structures were late in arriving in Germany and were adopted in different ways than in southern and western Europe. The Cologne Diptych with the Virgin and Child and the Crucifixion shows the development of this idiom, where dense, detailed abstract patterns of oblongs and lozenges in red and blue-black cover the flat of the two rectangular outer frames, and the small moldings are swallowed up in this surface ornament. Roundels and lozenges are carved out between the painted motifs and would originally have been filled with relics or semi-precious stones; the precursors for this are not the more architectural large-scale frontals and dossals but smaller reliquaries and book covers. A portable triptych with the Life of Christ (c. 1300–30; Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Mus.) retains a band of semi-precious stones.
Byzantine influence was still important, especially when Prague emerged as an artistic center—the setting for the court of the Holy Roman Empire—in the second half of the 14th century. Imperial influence stimulated such works as the decorative scheme in the chapel of the Holy Cross, Karlštejn Castle, where Master Theodoric painted 127 panels, some depicting saints (e.g. St Matthew, see Cutter, 1972, pl. 5). Here, the saints’ painted heads are set, icon-like, against colored grounds covered with decorative gilt-embossed patterns that flow out over the frame. At the same time, northern European trompe l’oeil techniques can be seen in the carrying of draperies etc on to the painted frame surface, rendering the image immediate. In the 15th century this type of painted decoration became so standardized on one type of altar frame that the ornamented motifs were stamped rather than painted on to plain grounds. This was done either with opaque colors or with a type of mordant gilding such as that used for the patterns of robes within the picture. Among paintings that display this technique are the Apocalypse altarpiece (c. 1400; London, V&A; see Grimm, 1978 and 1981, pl. 26) from the workshop of Master Bertram, the altarpiece of the Passion (the Lempertz Altarpiece, c. 1420; Münster, see Fuchs, 1985, pl. 10) and the altarpiece with the Coronation of the Virgin and the Ascension (c. 1415–40; Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Mus.). The last has internal bands of painted pattern dividing the panel into quarters, and these bands are edged in pastiglia and have pastiglia rosettes, like vestigial carvings. The deep sight bevel of the altarpiece in Cologne also anticipates the rainsill (or Wasserschlag), which is copied from church windows and becomes such a feature of northern European retables.
After a slow beginning the Rayonnant style spread swiftly in Germany and quickly took on the more elaborate elements characteristic of Gothic art in northern Europe. For example, the pierced lacework spire of the cathedral at Freiburg im Breisgau, the only one of its kind, illustrates the German fascination with fantastic attenuated fretwork that also characterizes German Rococo. Thus, altarpieces were produced that have simply molded wooden stained, painted or parcel-gilt frames in the oblong or ogee-arched format of the northern and southern Netherlands, but that have been elaborated inside by flamboyant curlicue tracery painted on the picture surface. This is seen on the altarpiece of the Trinity with Saints (second half of the 16th century; Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Mus.), where a triptych-like effect has been given to an oblong panel painting by the imposition of Renaissance pillars and three round-headed arches filled with bushy foliate tracery. All this is held in an ordinary, parcel-gilt, rectangular rainsill frame, giving a very rich effect extremely economically. The Master of Bodensee’s ogee-arched Hakenlandberg Triptych (c. 1500; Karlsruhe, Staatl. Ksthalle) has a similar arrangement. Like Netherlandish altarpiece frames of the same period, the silhouettes of German, Austrian and Bohemian retables show little tendency to fragment into complex tiers of spires and pinnacles, as do the great Italian Gothic altars. Instead, possibly because of this technique of decorating the panel itself within a simple frame, Central European altarpieces preserve a rectangular outline, although complicated arrangements of tracery and elevation often appear within.
Stefan Lochner’s SS Mark, Barbara and Luke (c. 1440's; Cologne; see Fuchs, pl. 18) is framed in this way, in a flat, oblong format, with panels of carved pierced tracery applied at top and bottom to the picture itself. An altarpiece of the Swiss school (c. 1450) has a completely carved micro architectural gilded inner frame with tracery, gables, pinnacles, finials and crockets. The upper tier is set, as in Spanish altarpieces, against a painted background, like the night sky, full of praising angels; the whole work is set in a black-painted frame of determinedly anti-classical type, with a broad inscribed top rail. The outer, defining edge of the frame is a gilded rope molding, which would not be found in a similar position on French or Italian altarpieces. The whole structure is of a vertical format, as Italian and Spanish retables—especially the latter—tend to be. German alters, however, is generally of one or, at most, two stories, and is correspondingly very wide. The effect on the composition and arrangement of the picture panels is marked; in Spanish or an Italian polyptych, the eye is drawn upward through a pyramid of focal lines, over the major narrative scene, to the celestial regions of the upper tiers inhabited by Christ in glory and God the Father. It is helped by the aspiring lines of the frame—by colonnettes, finials and pinnacles. With a German altarpiece, the eye is led from left to right, as in a book, before being pulled back to the central significant scene (which may occasionally rise a little above the others). This helps to underline the didactic elements in the painting and softens the alien aspects of the soaring heavenly scenes. By keeping all the panels on the spectator’s level, he is more easily involved, and the supernatural is rendered immediate, everyday and comprehensible. The relative plainness of the frames also helps this reassuringly mundane presentation, as against the painted buttresses and broken silhouette of an Italian retable or the jewel-like patterns and gilding of a Spanish one. Examples of this drawn-out, horizontal structure include Lochner’s triptych of the Adoration of the Magi (c. 1440–45; Cologne Cathedral), with internal cusped tracery applied to the panels; and the characteristically wide Güstrow Retable (1520; Güstrow Cathedral; see 1990 exh. cat., p. 38) and Michael Pacher’s St Wolfgang Altarpiece (1471–81; St Wolfgang, Parish Church; see 1990 exh. cat., p. 38). Pacher’s is unusual among German altarpieces in that it is crowned by a towering confection of lacey pinnacles; yet these do not grow out of a polyptych structure, as in a Venetian Gothic frame, but are planked on top of the basic horizontal oblong format. Pacher was commissioned in 1471 to create the whole altarpiece himself, including two pairs of folding wings on each side, complete with two panel paintings to each shutter-surface, the Gothic crest, and the main scene; this is actually carved completely of wood, in a three-dimensional representation of the Coronation of the Virgin, to which the frame acts as a proscenium arch. Above the figures and dependent from the upper rail of the frame is a filigree elaboration of the tracery on Lochner’s Adoration of the Magi—a forest of slender colonnettes and crocketed pinnacles, ogee arches and pendent drops. Pacher finished the work ten years later, signing the frame in 1481. He was paid 1200 guilders. The design, construction, painting, carving, gilding and coloring of the sculpted scene is a prodigious achievement. It is also striking for the combination of styles it represents. The painted panels have the recession and arrangement of figures that belong to Renaissance art, while the drama and movement are mannered—almost Baroque. The sculpted scene displays a Renaissance humanism and grace, but the differences of scale, the crowded space and especially the ornament are uncompromisingly Gothic. This is a demonstration of the enduring nature of Gothic decoration, in Germany and Central Europe just as in Venice, Spain, England and the Netherlands, and of the relative scarcity in these places of Renaissance ornament and frame designs.
(b) Small devotional and secular paintings
The design of frames for small devotional and secular pictures follows very closely the prototypes established in the Netherlands from the 1430’s, namely the van Eyck type. Characteristic Gothic ogee moldings with a flat outer section are found on a north German portrait of c. 1480 (Madrid, Mus. Thyssen–Bornemisza). This imitates the marbling on Jan van Eyck’s portrait of Margaret van Eyck (1439; Bruges, Groeningemus.). Occasionally, continuous molding frames were produced in ebonized wood with multiple series of cavettos, ogees and steps that have the appearance of being distinctly German, rather than Netherlandish, in character. A rare surviving pair is those framing the double portraits of Johan Stralenberg and Marguerite Stralenberg (both Frankfurt am Main, Städelijk. Kstinst. & Städt. Gal.) by Conrad Faber Creuznach (1500–52/3). The most frequent design following south Netherlandish prototypes is the Gothic ‘colonnette’ molding running on to a rainsill that often carries an inscription. An all-gilt example with inscribed sill frames the right half of a diptych (1493; Berlin, Gemäldegalerie.; see Grimm, pl. 45) by Hans Holbein the elder, originally part of a Mater dolorosa. An original polychrome and marbled version with inscription surrounds Holbein the elder’s Portrait of a Young Lady (1516–17; Basle, Kstmus.), but, unlike Netherlandish examples, the sill is divided into two sections: a steeper bevel at the sight and a longer, shallow section below. The rainsill frame continued well into the 16th century, and occasionally examples are found that may be described as more individually German than Netherlandish: for example on Bernhard Strigel’s portraits of Hans Rott, a Patrician of Memmingen and his wife Margaret Volhin (both 1527; Washington, DC, N.G.A.). These frames have abruptly stepped moldings, strikingly finished in polychrome, matching the sitters’ costumes. The outer steps, continuous around the frames, are black, and the inner steps are brown; below, gilt ogee sections with brown fillets inside run down to brown painted sills that have inscriptions relating to the year in which the sitters were portrayed.
At least as frequently in Germany as in the Netherlands, the most popular style of frame for secular portraits had a shaped top, either an ogee or arch, providing a window-like focus on the sitter. The ogee-arched frame with rosettes is reminiscent of Early Gothic frames, although the reverse ogee arch was more common in the 16th century. Curiously, many surviving arched frames in museum surveys are found on works by the Cologne artist Bartholomäus Bruyn the elder. The compact round-arched frame is generally favored for smaller format pictures, such as the hinged diptych surrounding portraits of Gerhardt Pilgrim and his wife Anna (both c. 1525; Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Mus.). These are in black and gold, whereas the frame around Bruyn the elder’s Lady with a Carnation (1540; Bonn, Rhein. Landesmus.) is polychrome, the outer surface enlivened with a painted spiraled leaf. For slightly larger three-quarter-length portraits painted about the mid-16th century, a reverse ogee arch was widened with the addition of hollow sections to each side—reminiscent of the center panel of a Netherlandish triptych—as in Bruyn the elder’s portraits of Heinrich Salsburg and Helene Salsburg (both 1549; Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Mus.).
A highly distinguished Gothic frame, the style of which is unrecorded elsewhere, surrounds Bruyn the elder’s portrait of W. Kannengieser (1550; priv. col.). The upright portrait is framed in a rectangular Gothic structure of pilasters and finials with an elaborate sill. Within this, an ogee arch surmounts the portrait, the spandrels filled with flowers and foliage. Simple ogee or entablature profiles, often with inscriptions, were employed in the production of circular frames for miniature portraits, as, for example, Hans Holbein the younger’s portrait of Desiderius Erasmus (1532; Basle, Kstmus.) and Bruyn the elder’s portrait of Dr Petrus von Clapis (1537; Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Mus.). This treatment closely echoes the production of inscribed medals of rulers and miniatures in metal frames, and continued into the second half of the 16th century in works by Bartholomäus Bruyn the younger. Again the tradition for these relates to Netherlandish models found, for example, on works by Dieric Bouts and Hans Memling. Occasionally, sitters were framed in rectangular entablature profile frames bearing biblical inscriptions on each side, as in Hermann tom Ring’s portrait of Domherrn Gottfried von Raesfeld (1566; Münster, Westfäl. Landesmus.; f 25).
The diffusion of Renaissance art, architecture and ideas throughout Germany was aided by the invention of printing in Germany in the mid-15th century. For the first time, representations of ornament and structure could be disseminated swiftly throughout Europe, and the effect was enormous. Ideas were also transmitted by Netherlandish artists who worked in Italy, as well as Germans who visited the country. Dürer had first visited Venice in 1494, and Hans Burgkmair I, the leading painter of the Augsburg Renaissance, was in Venice, and possibly in Lombardy, from 1507. Since no single school was established in Germany, numerous small centers arose instead where artists of individuality worked for the bourgeoisie or court patrons. In the last quarter of the 16th century the courts of Munich and Prague, whose rulers—dukes Albert V (reigned 1550–79) and William V (reigned 1579–98) of Bavaria and the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (reigned 1576–1612)—were devoted to art, attracted many talented artists from Italy and the Netherlands. Through Augsburg, which had been the traditional gateway to southern Germany from southern Europe, the Fugger and Welser families brought the first Italian artists to Germany. Several German artists, including Lambert Sustris, Friedrich Sustris and Hans Rottenhammer I, had themselves worked in Italy. Rudolf II’s passion for collecting turned Prague into an international center for the arts, and several German and Netherlandish artists arrived to work in the city, among them Bartholomäus Spranger, Hans von Aachen, Joseph Heintz, Roelandt Savery, Hans Vredeman de Vries and Paul de Vries (1567–after 1630). Having worked in Italy as well as in the Netherlands, these cosmopolitan figures would have been familiar with the types of frames found there and no doubt brought pattern books with them or had artisans travelling in their entourages. The considerable number of engravings published by Hans Vredeman de Vries, including architectural interiors and the earliest furniture pattern book, contributed to the production and decoration of frames employing Renaissance and Mannerist ornament.
Surviving frames made in Germany in the Renaissance style are exceptionally rare. A northern European form of the Italian cassetta frame, which may be called an entablature profile, had long been popular in Germany, as in tom Ring’s portrait of Domherrn Gottfried von Raesfeld bearing an inscription on the frieze. The same entablature profile frame appears on Johannes Münstermann (Münster, Westfäl. Landesmus.), also by tom Ring, but here with the frieze decorated in a continuous arabesque more Italianate in style. Foliage decoration in the frieze is also seen on the frame that is contemporary for Lucas Cranach the elder’s Portrait of a Man in a Fur Cap (Berlin, Gemäldegalerie.). This profile, bordered by a painted cavetto with gilt moldings, is in a style that must be considered more German than Italian. A similar Northern Renaissance cassetta frame, with multiple ribbed moldings either side of a frieze, surrounds Dürer’s Portrait of a Clergyman (Washington, DC, N.G.A.). The Italianate use of gilt ornament applied only at corners and centers of frames is equally rare, although it appears on two frames distinctly Germanic in character because of their stepped moldings and the use of strap work in the ornament. Both are contemporary with, and adapted to, their pictures: Wolfgang Huber’s Marggret Hundertpfundt (1526; Philadelphia, PA, John C. Johnson Col.) and Cranach the elder’s Lamentation (1538; Boston, MA, Mus. F.A.). One of the most distinguished northern European Renaissance frames—contemporary with, if not original to, the painting—is that on Hans Wertinger’s portrait of Duke Wolfgang of Bavaria (first quarter of the 16th century). The upper edge is flat, painted black, with pronounced ogee and sharp moldings reminiscent of Strigel’s portraits. It is the decoration of the frieze that distinguishes this frame from any Italian precedents; the sides are painted with elaborate grotesques in black, the top and bottom with painted cartouches linked to the sides with elongated scrolls.
Due to the exceptional rarity of recorded German Renaissance altarpiece frames, knowledge is limited to the celebrated frame (Nuremberg, Ger. Nmus., see Grimm, pl. 64; drawing Chantilly, Mus. Condé) designed in 1508 by Dürer for the Landauer Altarpiece (1511; Vienna, Ksthist. Mus.) and carved in 1511 by Veit Stoss. The design—which follows Italian aedicular frames like that of Mantegna’s S Zeno Altarpiece (1456–9; S Zeno, Verona)—has columns standing on a predella and supporting an entablature with figures and a segmental pediment. Although the structure is classical in form, the vine-leaf decoration of the predella, half columns and tympanum is Gothic in feeling. The retable frames of the other great German Renaissance artist, Grünewald, are still Gothic. The Isenheim Altarpiece (1512–15; Colmar, Mus. Unterlinden) has a simple outline frame of reeded moldings and is parcel-gilt and marbled. The central sculpted scene and probably the pendent Gothic canopy were carved by Nikolaus Hagenauer.
Some of the earliest sources for Italian Renaissance decoration in Germany were the engravings of such furniture-makers and designers as Peter Flötner from Nuremberg, who visited Italy in 1520–21 and is regarded as one of the principal exponents of the Renaissance style in Germany. The effect on frames may be glimpsed only rarely and is characterized by what may be termed the compound profile architectural frame. An impressive collection of such frames, unique in number and quality, is in the Gemäldegalerie, Dahlem, Berlin, and they are occasionally found elsewhere. Although these are based on Italian models, the differences in their profiles, their pronounced carving and the fact that they are invariably of polished rather than gilded wood all suggest that they were made in workshops in northern Europe. These sharply defined wooden moldings appear to demonstrate a German affinity with the purity of Tuscan architectural frames in natural wood, the austere forms of which accorded with the Protestant faith at this time of the Reformation. The undecorated form, typically Germanic in profile, has a deep scotia behind the frieze, which could effectively be enriched by scale-and-bead carving. The frieze may have geometric motifs reminiscent of furniture inlays; here, the natural color of the wood complements the blue-green background of the picture (as often found also in Cranach the elder’s paintings). More Baroque in character is the forward projecting fluted molding, surely more German than Italian and certainly an original variation. Frames with bold gadrooning and fluting are almost Mannerist in their definition, and those with interlacing recall Venetian and Tuscan prototypes. All-over carving, recalling the ornamentation of interior—notably ceiling—architectural moldings, is equally rare. The spirit of these moldings is reflected in views of northern European interiors such as those painted by Bartholomeus van Bassen (e.g. in Darmstadt, Hess. Landesmus.). An unusual use of ornament—pointing to a German rather than Italian origin—is seen on Holbein the younger’s Portrait of an Unknown Falconer (1542; The Hague, Mauritshuis), where the cassetta-style frame, with a natural wood finish, has a frieze inlaid with a Greek key pattern.
Because Germany was divided into hundreds of small principalities—Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinist—no national Baroque style developed, as it had done in the centralized workshops of France. Italianate Baroque carved and gilt frames are rare in Germany, and in fact the dominant frame made here and in Austria from the late 16th century to the early 18th is the product of the cabinetmaker’s workshop rather than that of the carver’s and gilder’s. The natural wood frame in all its forms, with inlaid and ripple decoration, is a product of the skilled artisans and designers in workshops in Nuremberg and Augsburg. The cabinets (examples Dresden, Kstgewmus. Staatl. Kstsamml.) they produced, exported in considerable numbers, demonstrate their astonishing technical skills in the use of veneers, inlays and semi-precious stones, filigree metal, tortoiseshell and ivory, with reeded and ripple moldings. Equally luxurious frames, similar to those produced in Flanders, were demanded for pictures destined to hang in a Kunstkamer. The frame for Landscape with an Inn (Munich, Alte Pin.; see Grimm, pl. 64) by Jan Breughel the elder is a rare example, with a tortoiseshell ogee outer edge and a veneered ebony frieze overlaid with elongated brass cartouches containing further tortoiseshell veneers. Occasionally, frames were inlaid with marquetry (e.g. Cranach the elder’s Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, c. 1535; Ottawa, N.G.) or were of walnut with marbled frieze (e.g. Holbein the younger’s Portrait of a Man with a Lute; Berlin, Gemäldegalerie.).
These exotic inlaid frames are exceptional, the vast majority being in ebony or ebonized fruitwood. Some are plain moldings, but most are decorated with various forms of wave and ripple enrichment. The development of the wave-molding machine in Germany in the late 16th century enabled this form of decoration to spread throughout Europe; it was particularly prominent in Austria and Switzerland, being seen on frames, cabinets and other furniture, and indeed interiors (e.g. in the Swiss Period Room; New York, Met.), where wave moldings were used to define the borders of panels. One of the earliest examples of this ornament is seen on an entablature profile frame for Pieter Bruegel the elder’s Sleeping Peasants (1566; Munich, Alte Pin.). The section— essentially the same as in Late Gothic frames—appears transformed by the addition of ripple moldings on the inner and outer edges, the whole being stained black. In southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland, increasing numbers of sophisticated wave and ripple ornaments were produced on jigs and distributed on picture and mirror frames in endless combinations. These enrichments are aptly referred to as Flammleisten (Ger.: ‘flame mouldings’), describing the effect caused by candlelight flickering across their surfaces. Such broad black frames would not interfere with the picture’s color scheme, and would successfully isolate the image from the surrounding wall surface while also creating a shimmering focus. In comparison with their richly carved and gilt ‘Catholic’ counterparts, such frames achieve some of the most aesthetically satisfying presentations of paintings. For example, van Dyck’s portrait of Pieter Snayers (Munich, Alte Pin.) is superbly set off by a forward-projecting, broad, undulating wave band adjacent to finer outer ripple moldings. The distinctly Mannerist four-bead zigzag ornament in the frieze of the frame surrounding Pieter Bruegel the elder’s Head of an Old Peasant Woman (Munich, Alte Pin.) is a more dramatic and rarer example—an inspiration for the frames designed by Franz von Stuck at the end of the 19th century.
In the later 17th century frames became heavier and were broader in width in relation to their aperture, having up to a dozen different sections and runs of ornament along each side. Zigzag or chevron ornament in miniature is combined with a novel basket weave molding in the ebony frame surrounding Rembrandt’s Self-portrait (1652; Vienna, Ksthist. Mus.). A more dynamic and Mannerist innovation is the use of outset or eared corners breaking the rectangular contour of the frame. This device is seen in ceiling decorations and on the fronts of cabinets made in northern Europe, and was employed with either plain molding, as on Cranach the elder’s Eve (Antwerp, Kon. Mus. S. Kst.), or with ripple moldings.
Although apparently there are no recorded examples, frames in the AURICULAR STYLE, so popular in the Netherlands, must have appeared in Germany, evidenced by suites of engravings. Johann Matthias Kager published prints of ornamental frames in an Auricular style (see Jervis, 1984, p. 265) in the second edition of Fuggerorum et fuggerarum imagines (Augsburg, 1618). In the early 17th century Lucas Kilian, also a pioneer of the style, published a series of designs for Auricular ornaments, most of which were dedicated to goldsmiths.
In the mid-17th century Italian influences introduced Baroque design to Germany: pietra dura craftsmen and cabinetmakers settled in Bohemia, Moravia, Prague, Würzburg, Salzburg and Vienna, drawn there by the Habsburg court, which encouraged Italian artisans to immigrate. In Munich, Schloss Nymphenburg was begun (1663) under the supervision of the Italian architect Agostino Barelli. Florentine influence touched the Palatinate and Baden-Baden, the rulers of which were connected with the Medici family through marriage. German craftsmen copied Florentine techniques of pietra dura and scagliola, ultimately influencing the production of luxury frames. The fashion for stucco decoration in Bavaria and Austria, introduced and fulfilled by Italian stuccoists , also had its effect on the production of elaborate picture frames. Although the furniture in Schloss Weissenstein at Pommersfelden, Bavaria, is relatively sparse, picture frames in the collection were profusely decorated with strongly accented cartouches in order to stand out against the surrounding abundance of gilded wood and plasterwork ornament. Pommersfelden frames—and there are a number of variations in the collection—are among the first examples of those series coming from the hands of the architect or interior designer. They needed to harmonize with the interior; and thus pictures of earlier dates and of different nationalities were reframed in a uniform style to suit the interior rather than the pictures themselves. Other examples from the Pommersfelden collection are Piedmontese in character, with a carved leaf sight edge and ogee molding decorated with foliage and strap work in the French manner. A similar example, on a larger scale and possibly executed by Italian artisans in French style, surrounds Adriaen van der Werff’s Entombment (1703; Munich, Alte Pin.).
Baroque ornament, which may have influenced frame design, is found in engravings in the manner of the French designer Jean Le Pautre, published, according to Jervis (1984), by Joachim von Sandrart after he settled in Nuremberg in 1656. Designs for Italianate Baroque frames, crestings and brackets with rich acanthus ornament were published in Neue romanische Ziehraten (Augsburg, before 1686) by the architect and cabinetmaker Johann Indau. Similar acanthus frames, friezes and brackets were also included in designs published between 1690 and 1696 by the cabinetmaker Johann Unselt ( fl 1681–96) from Augsburg (e.g. Neues Zierrathen Büchlein, 1690).
The various strands of Italian influence, however, were superseded in Germany by those of France during the late 17th century and the 18th. This was brought about by two events: first, the admission of 20,000 French Huguenot émigrés to Germany, under the Edict of Potsdam (1685). Among those who went were many artisans who worked for Frederick III of Brandenburg (reigned 1688–1713) on the decoration of Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin, and Schloss Oranienburg (interior destroy. 1945), north of Berlin. Second was the return, in 1715, of Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria (reigned 1679–1704; 1715–26), from exile in the Netherlands and France. He brought with him French and Dutch artists and artisans as well as first-hand knowledge of the château of Versailles. Among the most influential of the Germans whom he had taken with him to France was the architect Joseph Effner; from 1716 he was responsible for the enlargement of Schloss Nymphenburg in Munich and the completion of Schloss Schleissheim, near Munich. The so-called ‘Effner’ frame is characterized by highly decorative corners linked by straight, almost plain sides with an engraved surface, a feature common to the later Rococo frame. The corners serve to emphasize the diagonals and are essentially Régence in their formation of scrolling foliage and strap work, inspired by Versailles but in a more ‘mechanical’ and rigid form. The refined quality of carving and gesso recutting is highlighted by the sparse surface between the corners. Produced in considerable quantity and in groups with different corner cartouches, either incised or fully carved, these gallery frames came to dominate and regularize the appearance of the picture collections at Nymphenburg and Schleissheim. A later variation, between Régence and Rococo, surrounds a number of pictures; it has more freely carved cartouches with acanthus and palm foliage, and rocaille edges linked by ogee panels incised with strap work compartments. Simplified and cruder versions of the ‘Effner’ frame, either all gilt or with gilt cartouches on straight black ogee sides, were produced in Austria in the 1720’s (g 331–2). A similar formula with more elaborate cartouches, again on black rails, became an effective and economical Rococo frame in Austria in the 1740’s (g 333).
The Rococo style was enthusiastically adopted by the independent courts of Germany, each of which rivaled the others for architectural splendor, and soon spread to Austria and elsewhere in Central Europe. Although principally an aristocratic and moneyed style in France, it was taken up by the Church in Germany and Central Europe. This widespread and passionate adoption of Rococo decoration, combined with the innate German sense of uniformity, was embodied in the picture frame, which was produced in a series of elaborate standardized forms to harmonize with the display of entire princely collections. The finest of these were in Munich, Berlin, Potsdam and Dresden. The exotic nature of the independent German Rococo frame, which pushed the elements of the style to its extreme, must be seen in the context of the fixed inset picture and mirror frames that were the ultimate expression of the frame in an interior. Most notable here is the Ahnengalerie (1726–31) in the Residenz in Munich. This masterpiece of German Rococo was one of the Reichen Zimmer of Elector Charles. The gallery contains a sequence of superbly carved and gilt frames with vases, flowers, allegorical figures, trophies and legendary beasts, produced by Wenzeslaus Miroffsky (d 1759). From 1730 to 1737 the room was converted to house 120 portraits of ancestors and relatives of the Wittelsbach dynasty. Hořín Castle, near Melnik, north of Prague, has a suite of Stone Rooms, decorated by the stuccoist Carlo Giuseppe Bessi and containing large landscape murals framed in the most delicate and attenuated style of middle European Rococo (see Jackson-Stops, 1990).
The interior designer François De Cuvilliés, his mastery of the decorative vocabulary learnt from over 40 years’ Electoral service, was eminently capable of handling the picture frame. He was the central figure in the great flowering of the Rococo style in Munich from the 1720’s. His imaginative interpretation of French Rococo was published (in c. 400–500 engravings) in such collections as Livre de cartouche (Munich, 1738), which included frames, ceiling and wall elevations with paneling, and furniture. Another series in 1745 covered many aspects of interior decoration and objets d’art, as well as picture frames. Among other designers whose prints helped to disseminate the Rococo style in Germany was the painter and engraver Georg Sigmund Rosch. In 1745 he engraved one of Cuvilliés’s suites of ornament, and later some 32 plates of his own designs were printed in Augsburg, including patterns for mirror frames and for general Rococo ornament. Rococo frames and cartouches also appear in some of the 40 plates published by Georg Michael Roscher ( fl 1740–50) in Augsburg c. 1750. Perhaps the most influential Augsburger was Johann Esaias Nilson, however, whose 400 or so designs comprised allegorical figures in Rococo frameworks or cartouches, and in 1756 a Neo-classical mirror frame. Cuvilliés’s well-balanced designs of frames for sequences of pictures, formerly in the parade rooms of the Residenz in Munich, both enhance and reinforce the painted compositions without disturbing them. Following the concept of the earlier ‘Effner’ frame (Cuvilliés had been Effner’s draughtsman), elaborate rocaille ornament spills over the corners of the picture and is linked by delicately engraved sides bounded by a double-bead astragal on the outer edge. An important characteristic of this frame is the treatment of the scotia between the spectacular corners. This is carved in the gesso with a series of parallel grooves, interrupted by broader double burnished bands. These create a regular rhythm around the frame and could pick up and scatter candlelight freely. More prominence was given to these bands in versions where the scotia is wider; and they can take on an almost military appearance as in the frame on Louis Tocqué’s Frederick Michael of the Palatinate (c. 1745; Munich, Alte Pin.). The creation of such frames—and of related furniture—was the responsibility of Miroffsky, Joachim Dietrich and Johann Adam Pichler ( fl 1717–61), master carvers in the court workshop.
The rivalry between the various German princes is reflected in the astonishing frames created for Frederick William I of Prussia (reigned 1713–40) for his son Frederick the Great (reigned 1740–86) in his palaces of Schloss Charlottenburg, Berlin, the Stadtschloss (destroy. World War II) and Schloss Sanssouci, Potsdam; and later for Frederick-Augustus II, Elector of Saxony (reigned 1733–63) at the Zwinger in Dresden. Two flamboyant Rococo trophy frames, for example, were created for the pair of portraits (c. 1740; Stockholm, Drottningholm Slott) by Antoine Pesne of Frederick William I and his English queen, Sophia Dorothea . This is virtuoso carving functioning as propaganda, celebrating and aggrandizing the power of the Prussian throne. The relatively simple, straight-railed carcass is transformed by characteristic German Rococo features: it has been overlaid by six huge cartouches, only the paired corners on each side matching; all are asymmetric, notably the great fronton, and all the central elements stray markedly on to the picture surface. The fronton combines the Prussian eagle, a shell cartouche with Frederick’s monogram, his crown and a pendent order. Neither the pose of the tubby monarch nor the sober line and color of his armor have the dynamism to transcend this Baroquely dramatic ornament; although the spectator’s eye is certainly drawn to such an obtrusive frame, it does not necessarily leave it to dwell on the image of the King. This is a further example of the carver’s mastery defeating his object, so that the frame, instead of protecting, enhancing, subtly annotating or isolating the image, smothers it. Even the interplay of lines between the cartouches is at odds with the compositional lines of the painting, and this disjunction is increased by the unintegrated relationship of rail and ornament—the fronton in particular appears like a large gaudy butterfly that has alighted on the frame.
The frames created for Frederick the Great’s palaces are more successful versions of the same flamboyant genre. They have exceptionally broad, asymmetric rocaille cartouches at the corners, joined by slender straight moldings at the sides. Here, however, this deliberate accentuation of the unequal scale of sides and corners gives the effect of ‘floating’ the picture off the wall. In many instances the sides are incised with scrolling foliage and flowers, a two-dimensional echo of the deeply sculpted corners. The designs for these frames are attributed to the King’s architect Georg Wenceslaus von Knobelsdorff, working in collaboration with the ‘Directeur des ornements’ Johann August Nahl and the brothers Johann Michael Hoppenhaupt and Johann Christian Hoppenhaupt. Having worked in Rome and Paris, Knobelsdorff—influenced by Cuvilliés and several French designers— introduced a novel and confident version of the Rococo style to Berlin. The design process is brilliantly captured in an anonymous sketch (1743–4; Berlin, Schloss Charlottenburg; g figs 24 and 25) from the so-called ‘Knobelsdorff Sketchbook’, showing corner and center ornaments of picture frames. Frames for small works had only corner cartouches; centers were added for larger canvases: both formats combined perfectly with the interiors at the Schloss Sanssouci and Neues Palais, Potsdam. The more expensive swept-sided frames were much less common in German than in French Rococo and were not always as skillfully designed, as in that for Breakfast (1723; Berlin, Gemäldegalerie.) by Jean-François de Troy (ii).
Outside the princely collections fine German frames are rarely seen in public collections. A distinguished example surrounds the Family of Graf von Fries (1752; Düsseldorf, Kstmus.) by Johann Heinrich Tischbein I. The upper side of this novel frame has majestic asymmetric corner cartouches bearing the family arms, each surmounted by a crown, centered by an elaborate pierced fronton. There are minor center flourishes at the sides running to rocaille corners, and an uninterrupted lower side. This apex formation of cartouches is beautifully echoed in the overdoor boiserie painted within. The pair of frames for Georges Desmarées’s portraits of Charles Theodore, Elector of Bavaria and his wife (both Madrid, Mus. Thyssen-Bornemisza) is equally sumptuous, having asymmetric corners and centers, and finely engraved ogee sides. Smaller-scale versions of the Munich and Potsdam frame styles with narrow sides were favored for conversation pieces and portraits exemplified in the pair by Georg Karl Urlaub (1749–1811) and a set of three by Johann Georg Ziesenis (all Frankfurt am Main, Stedelijk. Kstinst. & Städt. Gal.).
The tradition in 18th-century Germany for framing entire collections in a Rococo style reached its zenith in the astonishing reframing program in Dresden commissioned by Frederick-Augustus II. Hundreds of his paintings in this standardized frame style, each carrying the King’s arms at the top and a crowned ar (‘Augustus Rex’) cipher at the base, hang in the now restored Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister. The design is fundamentally similar to the Cuvilliés pattern, with the back edge occasionally having an egg molding. The frame was produced in countless formats and dimensions, from such large canvases as an Annibale Carracci (3.3×4.5 m) to miniatures by Jan Breughel the elder (each c. 130×90 mm). The apertures were brilliantly adapted within a rectangular contour to accommodate canvases of all formats—oval ; ogee, arched top (e.g. Adoration of the Magi (c. 1516) by Joos van Cleve); octagonal (e.g. Carlo Dolci’s Head of St John the Baptist) and arched top (e.g. Frans van Mieris the elder’s Music Lesson). This reframing program, unrivalled elsewhere in Europe, is a testament to the zeal and determination of Frederick-Augustus II to present his entire collection in a unified style, harmonizing with the interiors. The production of these frames, during a remarkably short time in the early 1760’s, was the responsibility of the master wood-sculptor Joseph Diebel in his Dresden workshop. Diebel had worked for the court since 1740 and had introduced Rococo ornament to Dresden.
The display in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister of some 60 pastel portraits in Rococo swept-sided frames is equally remarkable. In contrast to the uniformly straight-sided frames on the oil paintings, these intimate portraits by Rosalba Carriera, Maurice-Quentin de La Tour, Jean-Etienne Liotard and others are presented in a sequence of frames, every one of which is different—with subtle variations in the design of cartouches and disposition of ornament—underlining the inexhaustible inventiveness and virtuosity of Diebel and his team of carvers and gilders. The centerpiece is a stunning pastel by Liotard—La Belle Chocolatière (c. 1744–5)—for which each cartouche on the frame is carved with such household objects as flower-baskets, keys, fans, sewing-bags, needles and balls of wool. Other pastels and oils by Liotard in museums in Geneva, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Houston, have survived in superbly designed and carved Rococo frames, more German than French in character, which suggests that possibly Diebel or a Swiss frame maker was involved in their creation.
5. Neo-classical, Empire and Biedermeier
Court decorators were still working in the full Rococo style well into the 1770’s, and it was not until c. 1780 that Neo-classical designs for furniture were published in Germany. Among the recorded engravings, including picture and mirror frames, appearing at this time were those by the designer Ignác Michal Platzer from Bohemia, who worked in a provincial Neo-classical style in the late 1780’s and after. The classicism of the Louis XVI style never took hold in Germany to the extent that it did elsewhere, and it was soon overtaken by the Empire style, which spread quickly from France. The more precise use of antique ornament of the Empire style appealed to German taste, and frames were created to furnish entire galleries—as in the Rococo period—with a few individual patterns alongside. Probably the earliest livery frame was that created for the gallery of the Electors in Düsseldorf (the Kunstmuseum im Ehrenhof in Düsseldorf displays a number of them on Flemish, Dutch and Spanish pictures). The pattern (g 373) is a hybrid of late Baroque and Neo-classical forms, with furled leaf sight, frieze, ribbon molding and broad outer torus of bound oak leaves and acorns, flanked on the outside by a garland of laurel. The torus resembles French Louis XIII frames, but noticeably Germanic—as in its Régence and Rococo predecessors —is the incision of fine striations over the carved areas, contrasting with the smooth frieze.
Another early Neo-classical frame is based on designs by the court architect Carl Albert von Lespilliez (1723–96), produced c. 1779 for the collection in the Hofgarten Galerie, Munich (g 374). This closely resembles contemporary French patterns, with leaf, frieze, beading and scotia. Instances of more specifically German Neo-classical frames are found on pictures from the Mannheim Collection, formed by the Electors Palatine. Two examples show the continuing fashion for recutting ornament in the gesso; the burnished shallow flutes act as miniature light-catching mirrors, as in the Rococo frames—here set against a textured background with stylized lambrequin corners. Equally novel is the alternating frieze of smooth bands and reeds with an outer fasces molding. Jean-Baptiste Perronneau’s Portrait of a Young Girl with a Kitten (Karlsruhe, Staatl. Ksthalle) has similar regular shallow grooves recut into the frieze of the entablature profile frame. Bunched laurel leaves are the principal ornament in the frame made for Pompeo Batoni’s state portrait of Charles-Eugene, Duke of Württemberg (1765; Stuttgart, Staatsgalarie.), and are also prominent on the frame for his portrait of Emperor Joseph II and his Brother, Leopold I, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1769; Vienna, Ksthist. Mus.; g 349).
More Italian than French in origin are the scotia profile frames. One version, current from the 1790’s to the early 1800's, has textured laurel leaves and leaf tips separately carved and applied, with molded beading. Another—one of the most regularly produced classical patterns—is a frame with applied carved moldings; it is virtually identical to contemporary Italian models, more Greek than Roman in taste, appropriate to the inclinations of German architects. The frame around Gerhard von Kügelgen’s Saul and David (1807; Dresden, Gemäldegalerie. Neue Meister) is a luxurious and rare embellishment of this design, having a scotia filled with a series of running foliate scrolls applied in pressed metal. Close imitations and variations of French Empire style patterns were produced extensively in Germany, several creative examples of which are on works by Joseph Anton Koch and Johann Christian Reinhart in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt am Main. A novel combination, contrasting refined acanthus leaves with heavier egg-and-flower molding, provides an appropriate presentation for the Nazarene devotional picture. Creative use of the imperial ornamental vocabulary—well suited to the purposes and themes of the Nazarene movement—is a feature of these frames, a fine example of which surrounds a Raphaelesque work by Friedrich Overbeck, one of the founders of the group. The frame is distributed with broad palmettes and honeysuckle linked by undulating scrolls, all on a larger scale than contemporary French frames, which on this profile would have been decorated only at centers and/or corners.
Doubtless encouraged by Napoleon I’s program of reframing in Empire style the pictures in the Musée du Louvre, the desire for streamlined presentation of paintings in German public collections was manifested in two major reframing programs. As in the 18th century, leading architects were responsible, after whom these frames have been named. In Berlin, the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel designed a standard gallery frame for the Altes Museum (1823–30; partially restored 1960’s). Although having a number of variations, it is basically a broad ogee section decorated with molded ornament in the form of regularly spaced palmettes on the sides, with much larger palmettes running into Greek scrollwork at the corners (g 370). In Munich Leo von Klenze, architect of the Alte Pinakothek, also provided designs for the frames, which were applied between 1830 and 1836. The section follows that of the French Empire-style patterns, with friezes, scotias and ogees, and the sight decorated with continuous patterns of anthemia and foliage (g 371).
French Empire-style patterns were closely imitated from about 1800 to the mid-1830’s, but by far the most widely produced frames were influenced by the Biedermeier style, produced for the newly prosperous middle classes in Austria and Germany as well as in Scandinavia. Frames, like furniture, were essentially simplified and popularized versions of the French Empire style. Many paintings by Biedermeier Realists still retain original frames (e.g. Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller’s Portrait of the Artist’s Son Ferdinand with a Dog, 1836; Munich, Neue Pin.). Earlier Biedermeier designs were simple and sparse, reflecting the austerity of interiors, and were generally in styles closely following French Restoration models. The simplest were plain scotia or ogee moldings. Five are depicted in the background of the View from a Room in the Diana Baths (1830; Vienna, Hist. Mus.) by the Viennese artist Nikolaus Moreau (1805–34). The sight edge could be enhanced with leaf molding and further with the addition of Greek scrollwork corners. Biedermeier frames, as Empire, were relatively economical to produce, with their ornament in molded composition. However, as they lacked the discipline of hand-carved frames, this occasionally led to an opulent tastelessness, especially in the revival Rococo patterns. An innovation was the application of lace to the surface of the moldings, giving a novel texture and linking the frame intimately to the fabrics of interior furnishings and to trimmings on clothing. The fine texture of lace was an effective and economical way of introducing surface contrast, previously achieved in hand-carved frames only by punch-work, the use of sand, and laborious recutting in the gesso. Occasionally the Biedermeier style was somewhat awkwardly adapted to the framing of large-scale canvases; the ogee profile frame on a painting by Carl Friedrich Lessing is augmented by three cartouches on the long sides and two on the short. Corner ornaments have also been added, as well as an outer scotia with continuous fluting. Other ornamental devices and techniques included the use of pressed metal moldings. Good-quality print and drawing frames were produced in large quantities in mahogany or stained fruitwoods, often with stringing inlays and sometimes marquetry floral decoration.
6. 19th-century revival styles.
As elsewhere in Europe, frame makers in Germany and Austria responded to the various 19th-century revival styles by producing a wide diversity of frames. As well as standard First Empire styles in the first three decades of the century, many new patterns were created to correspond with the historical periods represented in paintings. Frames were sometimes tailor-made one-offs, as was the case for some of Caspar David Friedrich’s works. Cross in the Mountains is a superb example of the 19th-century artist’s frame, elaborating on the symbolic content of the picture. The arched palm branches allude to God’s satisfaction with mankind. The base, which is analogous to the predella of a Gothic retable, carries the eucharistic symbols of wheat and vine branches. These form an arch over beams of light that echo the rays of the setting sun in the painting itself and that are centered on the Eye of God inside a triangle, symbolizing the Trinity. The frame was made by the sculptor Karl Kuhn from a sketch by Friedrich. Other Romantic landscapists, with their realistic approach to nature, employed equally individualistic frames. This example is a completely novel combination of Empire and Gothic styles, with its acanthus scotia and broadband of trailing ivy leaves.
The Nazarenes, dedicated to the rejuvenation of German art in the Christian spirit of the Middle Ages, emphasized their links with 15th-century religious works by neo-Gothic and neo-Renaissance frames. The earliest example of a Nazarene frame, with a segmental arched setting enclosing two oblong panels in double lancet form, is on Franz Pforr’s diptych Shulamit and Maria (1811; Schweinfurt, Samml. Schäfer, on loan to Nuremberg, Ger. Nmus.). These early frames, simple and severe, are relatively rare in public collections. One survivor surrounds Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s Tribute Money (1822; Düsseldorf, Kstmus.); its Gothic profile shows pronounced ribs overlapping at the corners. A more elaborate example has molded paisley-like ornament running to quatrefoils in the corners. Victor Orsel’s Good and Evil (exh. Salon 1833; Lyon, Mus. B.-A.; see 1990 exh. cat., no. 28) has a 19th-century polished wooden version of a Romanesque round-headed arch, with an inner painted border resembling a stained-glass window and illustrating episodes from the story dealt with in the picture; while a striking design is realized in the pair of Gothic lancet-shaped frames with molded cusped ornament, echoing the architecture depicted in two views of Gothic churches by Carl Gustav Carus (both 1836; Munich, Neue Pin.). A more elaborate Gothic frame was designed for the Austrian Nazarene Joseph von Führich’s On the Road to Emmaus (1837; Bremen, Ksthalle; g 389). Here, both inner and outer ribs cross at the corners. The deep scotia has continuous scrolling and counter-scrolling Gothic foliage painted in outline on the gilding, in a careful historicizing idiom that is both more attractive and truer to the painting than the neo-Gothic diapering used by both English and German Nazarenes.
Renaissance Revival frames are recorded intermittently from the 1820’s to the 1880’s on religious and classical subjects by the Nazarenes and others. Friedrich Overbeck’s Raising of Lazarus (1822; Karlsruhe, Staatl. Ksthalle) is appropriately framed in a magnificent aedicule in the style of the Venetian Renaissance of the early 16th century, with Corinthian pilasters and entablature covered with scrolling foliage. Moritz von Schwind’s History of a Holy Fool (untraced) is presented as a pedimented hinged triptych in the Renaissance style, while an intricately decorated upright arched-top frame, also Renaissance in type, was created for his Symphony (1852; Munich, Neue Pin.). Appropriately, Renaissance cassetta frames with punched scrolling foliage reminiscent of Bolognese examples and related to English patterns were the perfect counterparts to Anselm Feuerbach’s depictions of classically inspired figures. Similar frames are found on Arnold Böcklin’s work, as are several deep foliate frames in an Italian Baroque style (see Mendgen, 1991).
In the 19th century the spread of artistic movements internationally was matched by an increasing variety of frame styles. Pattern books became somewhat standardized, each country producing virtually identical versions of a given style. Just as the First Empire patterns had become widespread, so too did those of the Second Empire frames favored for paintings to be hung in the annual Salons. The skills and refinements of German frame makers were no less than those of the French, as is shown by an elegant frame in a late Baroque style with oak-leaf torus, finely beaded ribbon and—unlike the French version—leaf-tip back edge surrounding a landscape by Andreas Achenbach (1815–1910), a leading light of the Düsseldorf school. Almost the same versatile pattern appears equally successfully on Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s portrait of Ferdinand Lottner (1852). These French Revival patterns seem to be current from the 1840’s to the end of the century. Adolph von Menzel’s Sermon in the Old Monastery Church in Berlin (1847; Dresden, Gemäldegalerie. Neue Meister), for example, has a frame with deeply undercut molded scrolling acanthus leaves and flowers in a revival of the straight-sided Louis XIV style. The same design is seen on Fritz von Uhde’s Supper at Emmaus (1884; Frankfurt am Main, Stedelijk. Kstinst. & Städt. Gal.). A typical deep scotia fluted Neo-classical frame with laurel garland on the top rail is used successfully to enhance the perspective of Cattle in an Alpine Landscape (1871; Frankfurt am Main, Stedelijk. Kstinst. & Städt. Gal.) by Anton Berger. Richer and heavier versions of the deep ogee compound profile frame surrounding paintings of the Barbizon school, with laurel, acanthus, beading and water-leaves, were produced in Germany, as seen on Departure of the Emigrants (1882; Dresden, Gemäldegalerie. Neue Meister) by Christian Ludwig Bokelmann (1844–94).
From the 1860’s to the early 20th century Italianate Baroque frames were as popular as French Empire patterns. A number appear on works by Frans Xaver Winterhalter, including one with pierced openwork scrolling leaves and flowers for a study of a Girl in Profile (1862; priv. col.). Most designs resemble 17th-century Bolognese models, such as the spiraled leaf molding on the frame for Child with Doll (1894; Düsseldorf, Kstmus.) by Arthur Kampf (b 1864) and the broad running stylized acanthus leaves on Max Liebermann’s portrait of Dr Frans Adickes (1911; Frankfurt am Main, Stedelijk. Kstinst. & Städt. Gal.).
A reaction to the standard pattern-book frames took place in Germany in the second half of the 19th century, as in France and elsewhere; and artists used, commissioned or designed frames of greater individuality for their pictures. The highly popular portrait painter Franz von Lenbach preferred Italian-style frames, particularly antique examples. This taste was doubtless encouraged by his visits to Rome in the 1860’s to make large copies of the Old Masters for the Munich connoisseur Adolph Friedrich, Graf von Schack. A number of Lenbach’s portraits became visually associated with Old Masters through their frames. His portraits of Alfred Oberlander (c. 1888–90) and Ludwig von Undzuder Tann-Rathsamhausen (c. 1880; both Munich, Lenbachhaus; see Mendgen, 1991), for example, are set in Venetian Renaissance ‘Sansovino’ frames. However, a number have modern interpretations of Baroque designs: Russian Woman is surrounded by a frame with conventional Baroque inner and outer moldings but a completely new and striking fanned lambrequin motif running along the frieze.
7. Late 19th and 20th centuries
As well as these historicizing Revival styles, there were many artists’ frames, modern and innovative, that were produced for specific pictures. Hans Thoma designed highly individualistic frames. His romantic landscapes, classical subjects and symbolic portraits occasionally had the friezes of the frames painted overall by the artist. The cassetta frame that he painted for Apollo and Marsyas (1888; Bernheimer priv. col.), for example, is stained brown and painted in black, ochre and white with gold corners and centers, the lateral centers holding a bugle and violin as appropriate to the subject. Other frames for Thoma’s work were equally and ingeniously novel in their use of ornament. Landscape with Cattle Drinking by a Lake (1885; Düsseldorf, Kstmus.) has a cushion profile frame with stylized lotus leaves, their tips interlocking and running towards the center—a complete break with traditional patterns. So too is the sculptural handling of foliage—appropriately Italianate—for the frame surrounding a View of Carrara. Self-portrait (1880; Dresden, Gemäldegalerie. Neue Meister), depicting Thoma in an apple orchard, has a gilt cassetta frame with a top frieze of children’s heads representing the Fruits of Life, and sides and base with naturalistically painted floral garlands. This type of symbolic portrait and emblematic frame is a descendant of the 17th- and 18th-century portrait in its trophy frame. Later 19th-century examples by other artists include Gustav Klimt’s portrait of Josef Pembaur (1890; Innsbruck, Tirol. Landesmus.; g 408) in a wide, flat, gilded plate frame, with polychrome decoration in the style of an ancient Greek vase painting showing Apollo with his lyre, in honor of the sitter, a pianist.
A modern pattern-book frame that broke with tradition was the convex reeded frame, comparable to frames used by Whistler and Degas from the early 1870’s to the late 1890’s. The Art Nouveau stylization of traditional ornament is effectively employed in the picture frame and must have encouraged a revival of 17th-century wave and ripple moldings, which create a strong rhythmic pulse of light around the subject. Such a stock pattern surrounds The Dinner (1913; Munich, Neue Pin.) by the Munich Secessionist painter Franz von Stuck, who, being as much a student of the applied as the fine arts, had a strong feeling for the decorative effect of frames, and designed many that give his work great individuality. The broad triple waveband with stylized egg molding on the frame for Head of a Young Girl adds great potency to the image; the pattern derives ultimately from such 17th-century prototypes as that on Jan Breughel the elder’s Head of an Old Peasant Woman (Munich, Alte Pin.)—but now has the added luster of gilding. The same pattern appears again on the frame around Stuck’s Spring (1912; Darmstadt, Hess. Landesmus.); here, the frame maker has been identified as Irlbacher (Mendgen, 1991, p. 323). Stuck employed an antique egg molding in several other frames for classically inspired subjects, including The Sphinx (1904; Darmstadt, Hess. Landesmus.), where it is given the stylized and chunky treatment peculiar to Sessionist frames. The altar-like frame for Sin (1893; Munich, Neue Pin.; g 406) has the same solid presence. Heavy, baseless, fluted columns support an entablature incised with lotus leaf; the plinth mirrors the entablature, and its frieze inscribed with a cartouche containing the title. This theatrical presentation further dramatizes the shadowy, brooding figure in the painting and emphasizes her role as a femme fatale in the Symbolist canon. Along with Gustave Moreau’s Salomes and vampires, the women painted by Fernand Knopff, Stuck and even Dante Gabriel Rossetti have a sinister air, half-supernatural, underlined by the treatment of frames like this—primitive and temple-like.
Christmas (1910; Cologne, von Abercron) by Hans Pellar (1886–1971) has a 20th-century simplification of the classical aedicular frame; it is also a return to the engaged frame and panel of the Early Gothic altarpiece. The frame, part of the board on which the picture is painted, is made up of four straight, flat rails, with a shallow top, slightly broader sides and a deep base engraved with volutes and the picture’s title—all bordered by gilt ripple molding in the chunky Secessionist style. Similar ripple frames appear on other works by Pellar (g 409).
The Viennese Secessionist Gustav Klimt also set his paintings in stylized trabeate frames, with rails of unequal depth, shallow engraved ornament and inscriptions. Some of these were made by his brother Georg Klimt (b 1867) in repoussé sheet copper and are often gilded or silvered. A distinguished example surrounds Judith I (1901; Vienna, Belvedere; g 407), where abstract patterns have overflowed from the painting on to the frame (see Kosinski, 1993). The materials used may have been influenced by William Holman Hunt’s repoussé copper frames for the two versions of May Morning on Magdalene Tower. Klimt was typical of Symbolist artists in his desire to unify the frame and its decoration with the picture’s content; this was successfully achieved in such works as Children Praying (c. 1890; Vienna, Belvedere). A number of his metal frames are extremely narrow, with motifs and inscriptions, an elegant example surrounding the portrait of Sonia Knips (1898; Vienna, Belvedere), which is gold-plated, with the ornament in contrasting copperplate. These minimal frames were very effective, for instance the attenuated rails of steep arch-shaped section with continuous gilded ribbed molding on Klimt’s portrait of Mada Primavesi (1903; New York, Met.).
Frames in Germany in the 20th century, as elsewhere, are economical, geometric profiles—stained, gilded, painted with color or bronze or in combinations of these finishes, generally to complement the picture’s palette. Many Expressionist works retain their original frames, an exceptional example of which is on a painting by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. It has a rudimentarily carved wave molding adjacent to a straight line, finished in bronze . Many original frames for Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s paintings are in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt am Main. The frame for West Docks at Frankfurt has a double cushion molding, echoing the arched spans of the bridge in the painting, and that for Nude Woman with Hat (1907) has a double stepped architrave, the outer gilt and the inner painted red. In Cubist paintings the lines of composition are emphasized by the angularity of the frame section The frame around Lyonel Feininger’s In Neubrandenburg (1925; Karlsruhe, Orangerie) achieves this with a reverse profile with step and canted back finished in silver leaf. Arthur Segal, on the other hand, unified his work by treating a conventional plain frame molding as part of the pictorial surface, undifferentiated from the canvas, so that ‘the viewer’s eye looks at everything equally’ (see 1995 exh. cat., pp. 238–9). Kurt Schwitters ensured that the frames became integral parts of his collages by nailing strips of wood directly on to his compositions, as in Little Seamen’s Hostel (1926; Düsseldorf, Kstsamml. Nordrhein–Westfalen). This procedure typified the attitude of many 20th-century ar