This exceptional gilded wood frame is a work of the late 16th century. His figures are carved in high relief in the mass and represent the four seasons.
The theme of the four seasons has fascinated civilizations since late antiquity. Previously, the year was divided into three parts corresponding to the climatic conditions of countries like Greece or Egypt. It is probable that the quadripartite year was adopted at the time of the research on the course of the sun by the Babylonian and Greek scholars. This solar calendar has four fixed points which are the summer and winter solstices and the spring and fall equinoxes. These fixed points correspond to the middle of a season and the four seasons then symbolize the stops of the sun in the circular trajectory of the year.
These four periods also divide important moments of the daily life of men, which is why the iconography of the seasons is often anthropomorphic. In general, spring, summer and autumn are represented by female figures while winter often has a more complex personification. In our setting, spring is associated with flowers, summer with ears of wheat and autumn with vines. Winter is associated with hunting with a male figure accompanied by a dog, because this season is associated with the animal kingdom.
In the four corners of the frame are carved masks that refer to grotesque art. During the Renaissance, several artists created decorative compositions that imitated ancient decorations such as that of Nero’s Palace, the Domus aurea. These decorations include mascarons representing extravagant figures. At the time of Mannerism, grotesques were still widely used until the Counter-Reformation. The mascarons of the frame remind us of the one of the Fontana dello Sprone in Florence, sculpted by Bernardo Buontalenti.
Thus, this gilded wood frame has the characteristics of the figurative arts of the late Renaissance with a theme typical of the period and motifs that refer to grotesque art.

Frame with the 4 seasons – Gilded wood – Italy (Florence) – circa 1600