Picture Hanging with Moldings
With the explosion of inexpensive artwork during the mid-1900’s, picture hanging styles changed. Starting around the 1870’s, Victorians arranged wall decorations and table settings as “art units.” The dioramas, if you will, consisted of half-a-dozen framed chromos, family portraits, silhouettes, or hanging plates- arranged over a set of standing easels covered in more artwork. The easels were sometimes flanked by a table or a draped étagère, and filled with porcelain figures, tintypes, folding frames and other souvenirs.
No matter how humble the collection, “art units” gave homeowners the opportunity to display their prized items. This was also a convenient technique for compensating for poor lighting, as a group of frames and art objects could be illuminated by fewer light sources.
Hanging pictures in “art units” were typically randomly arranged, with varying patterns of wire. Pictures hung up high were usually tilted downward towards the viewer below, while lower frames were hung flat against the wall.
Art units began to dissolve with the introduction of electricity in the home. Suddenly, light was spread more evenly throughout a room, resulting in the individual orientation of artwork on a wall. Directing a light source on an independent piece became much easier. As the novelty of purchasing hundreds of different pictures wore off, homeowners graduated to exhibiting more self-control in the volume of pictures and trinkets displayed.
Through the 20’s picture molding was a stock item for millwork houses. However, with the Colonial Revival in architecture, ceilings lowered and “modern” decoration branded visible picture wires hopelessly Victorian. By the 1930’s, frames were hung on invisible wires and eventually on nails and hidden hangers.
Luckily a large number of original hangers still exist, preserved for your present-day interior design.
Hippo Hardware stocks a collection of original and reproduction picture hangers- available in every metal type and a variety of shapes and sizes to match your aesthetic. We also carry 11 colors of cord (60lb test) to add a professional, finished look to your frames. We are more than happy to assist you in coordinating the perfect combination for your home!
February 13, 2022
THANK YOU FOR SHARING. I inherited my family’s portrais that are WWI and older. Now I can hang them properly!