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Picture Framing and Art Preservation/History of glass used in framing prints and drawings


Hello! Have you any idea when glass began to be used in picture frames, to protect drawings and prints? I assume that drawings and prints were at one time kept in binders or folders, instead of being framed and hung on the wall. Given the initial expense of glass in the 1600's for example, when was glass used in this manner? We have a room furnished in a circa 1700 style, would like to hang prints and drawings framed under glass, but want to be historically accurate. Thanks!

Hello Hans,

I'm sorry it took a little while to get back to you but this question required a little bit of research. It turned out to be very interesting. I spoke to the gentleman who deals with the framing at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and he gave me some great insights.

First, you could look at when drawn or cylinder glass first became widely available, and the answer to this can be found in architecture. Large plate windows are found in buildings such as palaces dating from the 18th Century, but the fact that they are found only in the homes of the wealthy indicate that it was still very expensive.

Second, you can look at frames from the same time period. Unfortunately very few exist, fewer still with their original glass intact. However the Hogarth frame, named for the artist of the same name, came about during his lifetime, 1697-1764. This is important because Hogarth was also print maker and his namesake frame is considered the quintessential print and drawing frame. The fact that he developed a frame for prints and drawings indicates obviously that they needed frames and presumably glass in those frames.

Another interesting fact is that in some of Hogarth's works you can see framed prints hanging on the walls. That they were depicted casually as décor indicates that it was common practice and nothing unusual. However in his works depicting the upper class they still displayed paintings on canvas. It was the rising middle class who were framing and displaying the prints and drawings.

So in short, you would be safe in framing art under glass in your room. It would be most authentic if it was in the style of the middle class and more towards the mid 18th Century rather than the earlier part.

One last thing: Yes, you are correct that woodcuts, etchings and so on were collected and bound into books. This was very common in the Renaissance era and it did an incredibly good job of preserving the art. After that, before framing of works of art on paper became common, they would often be simply tacked to the wall. That's not something I would recommend, no matter how historically accurate.

Picture Framing and Art Preservation

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David Lantrip, MCPF, GCF


I can answer questions about all aspects of framing, with special emphasis on preservation framing. Categories of artwork include works of art on paper, needlework, textiles, paintings on canvas and three-dimensional objects. Components of framing includes frames, glass/glazing, mats, mounting, their features and how to select them.


I have been a professional picture framer and educator in the field since 1994, including framing education for a major franchisor encompassing three brands and the Professional Picture Framers Association, and writing and teaching for DECOR Magazine.

Professional Picture Framers Association (PPFA) > Board member, PPFA > Member, Certification Board > Member, Chapter relations Committee National Society, Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR)

DECOR Magazine, 2005 - 2010 PPFA For Members Only newsletter Member of the PPFA Guidelines task force, assisted in writing PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Paper and PPFA Guidelines for Framing Works of Art on Canvas, and PPFA Guidelines for Framing Textiles and Needlework. Picture Framing Magazine, 2012

Georgia State University, many classes as a student and educator through the Professional Picture Framers Association and DECOR Magazine. Current member of the PPFA guidelines task force and certification board.

Awards and Honors
Earned Certified Picture Framer (CPF) designation in 1996, Master Certified Picture Framer (MCPF) designation in 2004 and Guild Commended Framer (GCF) status in 2008.

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