The Middle Ages 1300-1400
THE MIDDLE AGES 1300-1400
Medieval pictures cannot be imagined without their frames.
The surface of the painting was often provided with a frame before the artist started his work – or painting and frame were carved out of the same piece of wood. This is known as an integral frame.
The frame is built up like ecclesiastical architecture with columns and arches, and surrounds the religious scene. Fine gold leaf should create the illusion of solid gold.
Because of its beauty, preciousness and imperishability, gold has been connected with immortality since antiquity, and is thus the ideal material to emphasise the message of the church about resurrection and eternal life.
The painting is the work of Maestro Francesco, also known as the Bologna Master. The framemaker, on the other hand, is unknown, as is most often the case, despite the fact that framemakers received much higher payment than artists right up to the 16th century. It was almost always the church that commissioned this sort of work.
THE RENAISSANCE 1400-1650
15th century Italian painting set the standard for paintings and frames in the rest of Europe.
The design was often connected with that of the antique temple, and the various parts of the frame were called by the names used of the temple. At the same time, gilded carving became more widespread in the course of the 16th century, with cassetta frames and non-religious moulding frames becoming popular.
The frame on St. Catherine of Alexandra is both robust and feminine. The gold has disappeared from the frame, so the wood of the carving is quite visible, and the blue colour was added at a later date.
The frame with its colour and expression is subservient to the beauty of this young maiden and Christian martyr, and delicately accentuates the colours of the painting.
We do not know whether frame and painting belonged together from the start. The innermost grey slip could indicate that the frame was adapted to the painting after both of them were completed.