Picture frames are becoming an increasing fascination - I love the tracery of the line - with or without picture - I make a bee line in museums for the big ornate gilt frames and marvel at the craftsmanship and artistry of the unknown maker.
The consensus is that it was during 2nd Century BC when the first frames were used - lines drawn around Etruscan wall paintings and wooden frames around Egyptian portraits of the dead. These Fayum mummy portraits were found to have wooden frames around them and it is speculated they were displayed in the household of the deceased before being placed on the mummy.
The first carved wooden frames as we know them today appeared on small panel paintings in 12th and 13th century..They were made from one piece of wood - like a tray with the area to be painted carved out before painted upon. Cost and practicality won out and it was the church during the 14th and 15th century prior to the renaissance that commissioned most art work and frames to go with them.
It was the Medicis who sought to bring art to their estates that brought in an era of the portable framed picture. Frames were now designed by furniture builders rather than the artist, sculptor or architect as in the past.
By 1690 Paris was the most famous frame making centre and frames followed furniture fashion from this period onwards. I