Tabernacle frame, ca. 1510
Walnut and poplar; overall 29 1/2 x 14 9/16 in. (75 x 37 cm)
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975 (1975.1.1638)
A tabernacle frame is characterized by architectonic structural and decorative members, most often based on classical precedents. This type of frame grew increasingly popular during the fifteenth century, and more elaborate and inventive forms developed during the sixteenth century, after which it largely went out of fashion. This example was made to contain a mirror. Like most sixteenth-century Florentine mirrors, it originally included a sliding shutter to cover the glass: the slot through which the shutter passed—in the right pilaster of the frame—has been filled with a modern wood repair.
During this period, walnut, a costly wood with a hard dense grain suitable for carving sharp detail, was primarily reserved for luxury objects. The manner in which the griffins on this frame were designed and carved suggests an attribution to the workshop of Marco and Francesco del Tasso.