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Frames in the Royal Collection

Detail of the frame for Tintoretto's The Muses

The history of picture frames in the Royal Collection is one of shifting tastes and styles that mostly dates back to the seventeenth century, with a few from earlier periods. Over the centuries, many monarchs have had the paintings reframed to reflect the fashion of the day. This will brief guideĀ introduces some of the styles that were employed: the simple yet decorative patterns of the Stuarts, the large influx of Italian frames through the Consul Smith collection, George IV's (1762-1830) elaborate additions to existing frames, up to Prince Albert's (1819-61) systematic reframing of the Buckingham Palace Picture Gallery.

A British 19th-century gilt compo frame; with plain slip, leaf scoop, cartouche corners, gadrooned knull, punched back scoop and oak leaf-and-acorn rail.

Frame for RCIN 403373, after Cranach the Elder, Electress Sibilla of Saxony ©

Frames fulfil a vital role of protecting the paintings as well as being individual works of art. Because the attention is drawn to the painting rather than its frame, many of which were produced in large numbers by unknown makers, their finely carved and gilded ornament has often been overlooked and ignored. While not all frames may be masterpieces of craftsmanship they exist in space with their pictures and so should ideally complement them; an elaborate frame will not always suit a simple picture and by the same token a large, grand portrait may lack grandeur in a small plain frame. In most cases our images of a frame are presented without their paintings to allow the object to be appreciated for its own merits.

The Royal Collection currently contains almost 8000 paintings many of which have a corresponding frame, these all have a Royal Collection Inventory Number (RCIN) that is in the 7000000 range and if it frames a painting, which have RCINs in the 400000 range, the 7 will prefix the paintings RCIN.

'Preparing a handsome picture frame to pattern chosen by HRH The Prince': Prince Albert frames his collection

Lucy Whitaker's paper to accompany the 'Victoria and Albert: Art and Love' exhibition

Sixteenth Century

Frames in the Royal Collection from the sixteenth century

Seventeenth Century

Frame types of the seventeenth century in the Royal Collection

Eighteenth Century

Eighteenth-century frame types in the Royal Collection

Nineteenth Century

Frame types of the Nineteenth Century

George IV

Frames in the Royal Collection under George IV

Prince Albert

Frames in the Royal Collection under Prince Albert

Highlights from the Collection

Highlights from the frames amongst the Royal Collection