FRAME, a word employed in many different senses, signifying something joined together or shaped. It is derived ultimately from O.E. fram, from, in its primary meaning "forward." In constructional work it connotes the union of pieces of wood, metal or other material for purposes of enclosure as in the case of a picture or mirror frame. Frames intended for these uses are of great artistic interest but comparatively modern origin. There is no record of their existence earlier than the 16th century, but the decorative opportunities which they afforded caused speedy popularity in an artistic age, and the Renaissance found in the picture frame a rich and attractive means of expression. The impulses which made frames beautiful have long been extinct or dormant, but fine work was produced in such profusion that great numbers of examples are still extant. Frames for pictures or mirrors are usually square, oblong, round or oval, and, although they have usually been made of wood or composition overlaid upon wood, the richest and most costly materials have often been used. Ebony, ivory and tortoiseshell; crystal, amber and mother-of-pearl; lacquer, gold and silver, and almost every other metal have been employed for this purpose. The domestic frame has in fact varied from the simplest and cheapest form of a plain wooden moulding to the most richly carved examples. The introduction in the 17th century of larger sheets of glass gave the art of frame-making a great essor, and in the 18th century the increased demand for frames, caused chiefly by the introduction of cheaper forms of mirrors, led to the invention of a composition which could be readily moulded into stereotyped patterns and gilded. This was eventually the deathblow of the artistic frame, and since the use of composition moulding became normal, no important school of wood-carving has turned its attention to frames. The carvers of the Renaissance, and down to the middle of the 18th century, produced work which was often of the greatest beauty and elegance. In England nothing comparable to that of Grinling Gibbons and his school has since been produced. Chippendale was a great frame maker, but he not only had recourse to composition, but his designs were often extravagantly rococo. Even in France there has been no return of the great days when Oeben enclosed the looking-glasses which mirrored the Pompadour in frames that were among the choicest work of a gorgeous and artificial age. In the decoration of frames as in so many other respects France largely followed the fashions of Italy, which throughout the 16th and 17th centuries produced the most elaborate and grandiose, the richest and most palatial, of the mirror frames that have come down to us. English art in this respect was less exotic and more restrained, and many of the mirrors of the 18th century received frames the grace and simplicity of which have ensured their constant reproduction even to our own day.
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