Antique Picture Frames: Cassetta, LouisXIII and Sansovino

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Antique Displays
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First of all, if you are shopping for a truly antique picture frame, you’ll need to look for those that are at least one hundred years old. Anything less, no matter how beautiful or aged it may appear, is simply not an antique. This is because the very definition of an antique is an item that was made over 100 years ago.

Although it is virtually impossible to summarize all styles of antique picture frames, below is at least an introduction to the features of some of the more widespread and popular varieties:

Cassetta Picture Frame

The cassetta, which literally means small box, originated in the late fifteenth century in Italy. It can not be distinguished by its color, as it has been produced in a range of materials from gold gilt to natural wood. Instead one of the key features that sets the cassetta frame apart from others is that each of its four rails are identical.. This was an extremely popular trait in the 1400’s and 1500’s as it signaled a move away from designs favored by the church.

Antique Louis XIII

The Louis XIII picture frame was commissioned under the reign of the Louis XIII, who assumed his place on the French thrown in 1617. This style is regarded as the very first definitive French frame, although many argue that its origins lie somewhat further east in Rome, Italy. Most frames of this genre display a patterns made up of leaves (in particular, laurel, oak and acanthus leaves) which tend to run from the middle of the frame outwards towards the edge.


This frame was designed by the Florence-born sculptor, Jacopo Sansovino, in the mid to late sixteenth century. Probably the most notable feature of the early Sansovino frame is its sheer detail – a multitude of interwoven spirals which tended to increase in density at both the top and bottom sides of the piece. Some examples of these picture frames also contain images of birds, cherubs and other beings within the shapes. Later, the Sansovino frame took on new shapes and characteristics, with those produced post-1550 taking on a much less opulent look with all four sides being made up of the same pattern.

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