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  • Object:


  • Place of origin:


  • Date:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Walnut with gilding.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Furniture, Room 133, The Dr Susan Weber Gallery, case BY9, shelf CASE1

The Museum purchased this frame as a new item in 1861, to provide an example of modern Italian carving. Although the maker is not known, it bears many similarities with the work of Luigi Frullini in Florence, and of the studios of Angelo Lombardi and Pietro Giusti in Sienna.

Nineteenth-century Italian carvers were inspired by Renaissance masters, such as the Sienese carver and intarsia worker Antonio Barili (1453-1516) and his nephew Giovanni, who made a frame also in the collection of the V&A (926-1900). The form of this frame was probably taken directly from a Renaissance object such as an oval mirror frame now in the collection of the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

Renaissance motifs of scrolling foliage interlaced with mythical beasts, birds and insects gave free range to the imagination and provided a vehicle through which a range of skills, such as the technique of undercutting, could be displayed by the carver.

Physical description

The frame is oval, surmounted by an eagle which breaks above the upper edge. Carved in relief, the frame is centred by a circular void, backed with pale yellow-green velvet. The wood appears to be walnut, and there are two bands of gilding around the outer edge, and three bands of gilding, one interrupted at intervals, around the central circle.

At the top stands an eagle gripping a snake with its talons and beak (the snake's head hanging from the beak). The eagle stands on a platform which rises from foliage sprouting from the apex of the circular centre. Flanking this foliage are scrolling acanthus branches that birds are tugging at. Just below them, and resting on the central circular frame, are two winged dragons, facing each other, their lower bodies 'melting' into the circular inner frame. Further down the frame is another bird on each side, that on the left with a butterfly in its mouth, that on the right with a worm. Below each of these is another bird, that on the left down turned and tugging at foliage, that on the right upturned.

At the base of the frame are two winged beasts with long necks, horned heads and lolling tongues, and face each other, flanking an elongated blank shield hung from a ribbon. Their wings are folded back and their tails rise in the form of acanthus plants which scroll up and fill the sides of the frame.

Place of Origin




Materials and Techniques

Walnut with gilding.


Height: 44.5 cm, Width: 31.8 cm, Depth: 7 cm approx

Descriptive line

Relief, birds and monsters; Italian, ca.1860, walnut and gilding

Labels and date

About 1860

Italy (Tuscany)
Walnut with gilding

Museum no. 7881-1861

From the 1860s virtuoso carvers in Tuscany imitated Renaissance masters such as Antonio Barili. They used the same fine-grained walnut, sharp undercutting and scrolling ornament with flowers and figures.

Some specialists consider that the later work, while technically excellent, lacks the easy grace and vitality of the earlier. [01/12/2012]






Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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