We don't always look at what provides the edging or border to a house or a garden or painting or photograph, but if the row of petunias or the carved wooden frame is missing, we notice it that something is amiss.
Frames, after all, frame. They're kind of amazing that way, and some of the most amazing of all frames hailed from the era of Louis XIII. You know the ones: Sumptuous, scroll-filled, curlicue symphonies in gilded oak, frames that rivaled the painting inside the frame for pizzazz and power to draw the eye.
The Getty Center is celebrating those four sides that lend an artwork its outer oomph in "Louis Style: French Frames, 1610-1792." The exhibit, which features "more than forty frames and framed paintings," will ponder the ornate-a-tude over-the-top-ness that frame-making artists employed during this incredibly un-understated period of time.
Visitors to the high-on-the-hill museum will have "the opportunity to consider in depth the types and function of this art form." Gold leaf and carving and water gilding were all the rage during the 17th and 18th centuries, when more was more, at least when it came to paintings, and their frames, that were favored by the court or those in the court's orbit.
The "wall furniture" in the exhibit hails from not just one king-span but four, so viewers will be able to take in a wide range of frames over several decades.
The Getty is home to a diverse assortment of historic moldings. How these made-to-be-noticed frames gave life to the art within the borders, or even, at times, distracted from the paintings, weaves into the themes of the multi-month exhibit.
Truly, how often do you attend a painting-filled show intent on gazing upon the frames first and foremost? It's a rare chance to think of something that's quite common around most museums, but not, in the end, common at all.
At least not during the gilded-everything era of Louis XIII and the posh-playful French aristocracy. Ponder the frame, and then the painting, at The Getty Center from Sept. 15 through Jan. 3, 2016.
image: Jean-Baptiste Pillement, "Market Scene in an Imaginary Oriental Port," about 1764, cr: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles