Today, many museum visitors and art historians alike pay little attention to the frames of artworks,
and they are not inclined to attribute a particular meaning to them. In early modern Europe in
contrast, elaborated frames were widely diffused. There seems to exist a gap between the way
frames are valued today and roughly 400 years ago. It is this issue that the project will address
when formulating the following three goals:
(1) The first goal is to map the development of frames in five art forms: tapestries, miniatures,
paintings, prints and sculptures. To this end, five case studies will be undertaken that cover the
period between 1540 and 1600 in Antwerp, a major economic and cultural centre at the time.
(2) The second goal is to examine the relationship between the meaning of frames and dialectic. In
early modern Europe, dialectic was a prominent theoretical discipline that would have determined
the way in which people thought and reasoned. I argue that artists applied dialectical principles in
their works, and that these principles are a key to understanding the specific logic of frames.
(3) The third goal is to explore in how far frames are related to contemporary art-theoretical and
image theological debates. These debates were especially dominant in the sixteenth-century Low
Countries, and had a definite impact on the visual arts.
In order to reach the two last goals, frames will be studied in connection with early modern
treatises on dialectic and image theology.