Last week I put up a post about a carved frame we made for a wonderful 17th Century map of the Americas. Here’s another map in a carved frame—a very special early map of the State of Illinois I framed recently for a resident of that important state. In 1822, when this map was done, its most famous citizen, Abraham Lincoln, was just 13 years old. Since the state tree is the white oak, it was obvious what wood we would use. But we didn’t stop there: I carved the corners with oak leaves.
In contrast to the stylized scroll pattern on the other map (right), this frame’s carved with naturalistic patterns drawn from life. While California has its own varieties oaks, of course, white oak is not that common; fortunately, though, I stumbled across a couple in my neighborhood and so picked up a sprig from which to model my patterns. (The four corners are all different.) Also, the raised element near the sight edge is carved with a pattern to match the hash marks on the border of the map designating longitude and latitude. The map is about 18″ x 22″, and the frame is 3″ wide. The stain is Medieval Oak, and the frame has a gilt slip.
There’s no question that the framed map of the Americas works better in a purely visual sense due to its density. But I would defend this one as a legitimate use of the frame to celebrate the picture and to signal its significance. While dark hardwood frames can certainly overwhelm a picture, it’s almost impossible for them to feel pretentious and as if they’re “overselling” the picture, at least in a basically very simple profile shape such as this one. Especially with the carving (it helps that the carving is set away from the picture), the frame is simply a pure expression of my customer’s heartfelt and genuine praise and affection for the art work inside the frame and all it represents.