This section is from the book "The Practical Book Of Interior Decoration", by Harold Donaldson Eberlein, Abbot Mcclure, Edward Stratton Holloway. See also: The Victorian House Book: A Practical Guide to Home Repair and Decoration.
Glass must necessarily be used for the protection of all pictures painted or printed upon paper.
In general their frames, whether of gold or of wood, should be slender, or of but moderate width, unobtrusive and yet beautiful in form and line. They may be rather ornamental, as in Plate 118, or extremely simple and plain. Pictures with strong contrasts or masses of dark colour naturally need greater sustaining weight of effect in the frames than do those of lighter and slighter nature.
The logical frame for a colour-reproduction of a picture painted in a certain period is a reproduction, to the scale of the print, of its original frame, or at least of a frame that might appropriately have been used.
One of the beautiful Italian heads or figure-pieces with its appropriate frame would be in keeping with most homes of restrained and semi-Classic character as well as in those of the period; but if the frame were found to be too elaborate or too expensive in appearance for the particular place the picture is to occupy a simpler frame of more non-committal but generally Classical or dignified nature could be substituted.
The handsome old photograph frames of thirty to fifty years ago make admirable settings for portrait reproductions in colour. During the course of years the gold leaf has taken on dim and beautiful tones impossible to secure except through age. Such a frame, containing a reproduction of one of Sir Joshua's portraits, appears above the bookcase in Plate 119 A.
For a monotone reproduction of a period picture a wooden frame appropriate to the period should be used, or else a non-committal but not incongruous moulding. The tone of the frame should accord with that of the picture and be slightly lighter than its darkest masses. In the framing of period pictures only a man who knows this particular phase of the business should be employed.
With some of the eighteenth century monotone prints the black frames with high polish and with a narrow gold inside line may most appropriately be used. Some of those of lighter character may have mats and narrow gold mouldings.
Writers on decoration, of course, recognise that pictures must be in proper relation to the room and that frames must be in relation both to pictures and the room. Yet nowhere have we seen a practical word of caution upon the following point. In the section on pictures we deprecated the employment of monotone pictures in handsome and colourful rooms. This was not only because of the pictures themselves but because their inappropriateness is further emphasised by the wooden frames that usually and properly accompany them, the combination being unsuited for use in handsome drawing-rooms and boudoirs, with satin-wood, mahogany or decorated furniture and rich textiles of silk or velvet.
We will go further. The almost universal prescription for Japanese prints, sanguines and drawings or reproductions in but slight colour is the wooden frame, the argument being that nothing should be used that will take away from the picture. But if such pictures are placed in handsome rooms brown, black or even grey wooden frames do precisely this: they are felt to be out of accord with the room and so both attract notice and detract from the picture. Gold was considered as a neutral by the decorative masters of the past, and dull gold mouldings of the same simplicity as the wooden frames are equally unobtrusive and still are handsome, and so appropriate for such environment. Down the long hall of an apartment known to the writers is a collection of Japanese prints on Japanese paper mounts and in frames of this narrow gold moulding: they are infinitely more attractive than they would have been in wood. But the Japanese use wooden frames for their prints! Certainly; and they are quite appropriate for the Japanese interior. They also are for some of ours, but they do not accord with the richness of others, A grouping of four Japanese prints in one mat and frame is shown in Plate 92 B.
Mahogany and rosewood are more refined than oak, and if the furniture is mahogany and these woods agree with the pictures they may be used in a room of a lesser degree of richness than those we have been considering. A narrow gold inside line may often be used with these frames.
To sum up, our general contention is that the use of a brown or black wooden frame for a picture in colour is a derogation from the picture and had better be avoided.
A suggestion well worth bearing in mind is the painted frame - which although occasionally seen has largely escaped the attention of writers on decoration. Yet with painted or lacquered furniture, or woodwork in a deeper tone than the walls, what could be more suitable! In some instances the frames might be related to the fabrics employed in the room. An appropriate wooden frame may be bought and painted in oil in any desired tone or colour. If there is a mat between it and the picture the frame might be in the dominant note of the picture or it might harmonise with the woodwork of the room. A few of the possibilities opened up here may be considered.
The dull green, red or blue lacquer, and imitation lacquer, tones would be very likely to suit water-colours, pastels or colour-prints used in the same room as such pieces. If there were several pictures and one did not harmonise therewith it might be used elsewhere. So also it would not be difficult to select one of the colours of body or ornament of English, French, or Venetian eighteenth century or modern decorated furniture that would admirably frame the pictures used therewith, thus doing something out of the ordinary which yet would be in impeccable taste. Among such colourings would be found entrancing shades of old rose and mulberry, old blues and greens, soft yellows, tans and buffs. Many textiles, too, would give similar inspiration, and the less positive tints used for woodwork (if darker than the walls) such as the deep ivories and creams or French greys, would be exquisite with such paintings or prints. A gold line might be introduced with advantage in many instanced, especially where gold enters into the furniture decoration or where there are notable candlesticks, side-lights or lamps of brass.
In an apartment the writers once knew there hung a Beardsley figure printed in vermilion on a white ground: it was in a vermilion frame. Since then the "Modern" style of decoration has come to the fore and the wall trim is frequently pronounced in colour. If this colour is found by experiment not to "kill" the strongly decorative pictures likely to be used therewith the keying of the two together would be excellent. A bit of strong colour in simpler rooms is also often advisable and by keeping such individual things apart from other pictures conflict is avoided.
In the carrying out of any of the preceding suggestions overdoing should naturally be shunned, as a touch too much invalidates an unusual effect.
Since the writing of the above we have seen in a Fifth Avenue shop an excellent treatment of a small reproduction of one of Velasquez's infantas, the tones of which are primarily red and grey. Its frame was a narrow band with a raised ridge on either side. The band was of fawn grey, the inner ridge of red, and the outer of dull gold, the gold extending over the whole outside edge of the frame. Near it was a modern picture in which the dominant was blue-violet. The frame was the same as that just described, except that the band was of the violet.