Sunday, 22 March 2015

London calling | Frames in forcus

Portrait of Girolamo Fracastoro by Titian, c.1528
Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - As most art people would agree, the thing about frames is a matter of what's in the frame and what's out. However, the all recently announced exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery begs to differ; here the frame is the work of art, and it is frames not paintings that take centre stage in this exploration of one of the most inventive and exuberant types of picture frame.  So enduring was the reputation of architect and sculptor Jacopo Sansovino that in the late 19th century the term ‘Sansovino’ was coined to describe frames created in an elaborate, early-baroque style – more than three centuries after his death.  'Frames in Focus: Sansovino Frames' marks the first in a series of exhibitions at the National Gallery which will explore specific frame types; bringing together 30 exquisite examples of this distinctive style of frame associated with Venice and the Veneto.  With only two of the exhibits framing paintings, the exhibition demonstrates how frames – designed as removable items to enhance a painting only since the early 1500s – can be considered works of art in their own right, and can transform the way we look at paintings.  With outstanding examples of frames dating from 1550 to 1600 on loan from the V&A and private international collections, this exhibition reveals the story behind Sansovino frames and invites us to look again at paintings and the frames that surround them.

Associated with Venice and the Veneto of the second half of the 16th century, Sansovino frames are characterised by carved overlapping scrolls, garlands of fruit, masks, broken pediments, and sometimes cherubs.  Sansovino frames take their name from the Italian architect and sculptor Jacopo Sansovino (1486–1570) who was responsible for some of Venice’s finest Renaissance buildings, including the Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana.  Their design marked a change in the way frames were conceived, as frame makers experimented with traditional architectural forms. However, Sansovino’s name was not attributed to this elaborate style of picture frame until the late 19th century, more than three centuries after his death – resulting in a misleading connection between the two.

So, if you happen to visit the Gallery 1 April - 13 September, don't overlook Room 1; it certainly will hold some genuine surprise.



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