A Splendid Pair of Iron Frames

A Splendid Pair of Iron Frames

This gorgeous pair of frames fully represents the triumph of Baroque iron. The frames are entirely made of embossed iron (repoussé): a particularly complex technique and a French prerogative that was brought back to excellent levels precisely during the Baroque era.

The embossed iron is obtained from a foil and this implies (in fact, obtaining large format sheets was technically impossible) that the artifact was necessarily made with the juxtaposition of several parts, joined together with rivets.


These frames, which could host maybe a pair of mirrors or paintings, are very rare objects and find a significant confirmation in the most important western museum dedicated to the art of iron: the Musée Le Secq des Tournelles in Rouen, France.


An iron frame, France, First Half 18th century. Rouen, Musée Le Secq des Tournelles.

The refined ironwork technique, almost defying the intrinsic characteristics of the metal, emerges in the rendering of the classical and generous acanthus leaf vegetal scrolls, that with graceful symmetry create the frame, referring to the unsurpassed elegance of the age of Louis XIV (1651-1715).
The Sun King himself, identifying the Ferronnerie as the ‘Fourth Art’, therefore on a par with the three major arts, encouraged its application in a wide range of artistic fields.
Besides, both the Sun King and Louis XV had a passion for locks and iron objects, that they manufactured on their own in a small workshop specificallly built for them.


Top: F. Boucher, Two Pastoral Scenes (1736-1742). Bottom: G. Boffrand, Design for the Bedroom of Prince de Rohan in Paris, Hotel de Soubise (1735–36).

In the history of the frame, the ones made of metal (silver, gilded copper, brass etc) represent a less common class, but the present pair is undoubtedly an even more notable exception and a rare and significant witness of the refined French ferronerie.


Wrought and repoussé iron
First half 18th century
Cm. 86 x 56 H

References: Henri-René d’Allemagne, Ferronerie ancienne, Catalogue du Musée Le Secq des Tournelles à Rouen, 2 voll. Schemit, Paris 1924 (English edition: Decorative antique ironwork, Dover Publ., New York 1968), pl. 185.

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