The frame has got the task of enclosing the space depicted in the painting: a boundary toward the outside and the inside of the painting. The real function of the frame is felt exactly with its absence. In the past the frame was the outcome of the work of a lot of experts who created a work of art capable of containing another one. The frame is not a part that completes the painting, but it is an independent artcraft.
The Frame and the Artistic Processes
The “artistic frames” are made according to antique procedures starting from “ammanitura”, that is repeated overlappings of Bologna plaster mixed with rabbit glue. Another step is the lacquering with natural and organic pigments followed by the gilding. The “ammanitura” is used before laying the “bolo”, that is the process preceding the real gilding. The best known “bolo”, that can be of different colours depending on its origin, is the reddish Armenian one. This is the same tonality that is visible when the gildings of antique objects, obtained through the “guazzo” technique (i.e. with the golden leaf) are consumed. The application of the golden leaf follows the laying of the “bolo”. This is an operation that requires experience and professional competence since the leaf is so thin that it would break if touched with hands. Working on small areas with accuracy and ability, the solution, called “guazzo”, is spread in order to fix the leaf to the “bolo”. Once the gilding has been carried out the frame looks dull, and it is now that the so-called burnishing is performed. Its aim is to make the golden leaf bright and shining and it is a procedure that takes place polishing the leaf repeatedly and skillfully with the burnishing tools. The shapes of these tools vary according to the surface you are working on – smooth, polished, with cavities and carvings -, but all of them are made of agate stone.
The skilful work of the cabinet-maker
The same care is given to the wooden working of frames, thanks to the skilful ability of the cabinetmaker (“timber master” in ancient times), especially assembling the corners and choosing the joint. “Officina Capitani” seldom uses nails to assemble the “artistic frames”, but it prefers, as in former times, the use of small wooden wedges (pegs) to put together the several parts.