One of the most important aspects of a work of art is the bespoke framing used not only to protect it but also to shape how people see and perceive it.
In the early days of panel painting, the art and its frame were literally inseparable and carved out of the same piece of wood, but even after the development of more modular frames, many works, eras and artistic traditions are inextricably linked to the frames around them.
Some frames in and of themselves become noted works of art as heralded as the artwork they protect within, and with that in mind, here are some of the most expensive picture frames in the world.
Salvator Mundi’s Frame
The only known painting by Leonardo da Vinci to be in the hands of a private collector was bought for £392m ($450m) which made it the most expensive work of art ever sold, and the circumstances of that sale and the constant delays of its unveiling at the Louvre in Abu Dhabi are so unique and strange that they have become the subject of the film The Lost Leonardo.
What is perhaps even more unique is the nature of the frame itself, which was a 16th-century black and gold design that itself has a unique story, given that for many years it had been displayed in an anachronistic 19th-century gold frame under the auspices that it was one of many copies of the da Vinci original.
Once it was considered to be genuine, it underwent extensive restoration, including the replacement of its frame with an authentic 16th-century black and gold design at a cost of £45,000.
Debbie Wingham’s Diamond Time Peace
Debbie Wingham is a fashion designer who has developed a reputation for topping many “World’s Most Expensive” lists with her makes, from the little black dress studded with black diamonds that cost over £5m to the Runway birthday cake worth £90m lined with an entire diamond collection.
Her most expensive frame, a clock-themed piece that was part of the Time Peace collection is lined with over 10,000 diamonds and at a value of over £2m is one of the few frames worth more than the value of the painting within.
When many countries started to enter a state of lockdown, Debbie Wingham started to paint to indulge her desire to travel during a time when nobody could.
To frame a painting of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, she created a round diamond-encrusted frame in the shape of a clock face using reclaimed metal, complete with roman numerals.
Given that she is much more famous as a designer than as an artist, this could be one of the only cases in history that a picture frame is worth more than the work of art it was designed for.
The Scream’s Poetry Frame
Edvard Munch’s The Scream is one of the most famous works of art ever made and the most expensive version ever sold may have become that valuable in part because of its frame.
The 1895 version made with pastels rather than paint and often considered to be the most vibrant version, also has a frame that was hand-painted by Mr Munch himself, featuring a poem that served as the inspiration for the expressionist piece.