This is not the first framing style used by Brown, Hunt or Rossetti but it is the one that they are most associated with.
The earliest frames used by members of the Pre Raphaelite group reflect their interest in the work of the Nazarrenes and retain Gothic elements and decorative influences (see the frame on 1426-3, Ary Scheffer Christ and the Maries (The Entombment) – something that remains a theme in the presentation of the paintings over subsequent decades.
Frames like this one – developed by Madox Brown and Rossetti in particular – are very specific and particularly radical and influential.
Firstly the profile is flat, the picture plane and the plane of the frame are almost the same. They are essentially linear in form, running around the edge of the image. There are no strongly articulated ornaments at the centres or corners – indeed the joining of the flat (the gilded oak part) is not mitred. It uses vertical joins at the corners – eliminating the diagonal mitre and its associated bisecting sight lines.
There is nothing in this frame that divides the viewers eye along diagonal axis.
On another level it is intimately connected to the image and this level of connection between the frame and the painting is one reason many Pre-Raphaelite paintings have retained their frames. This is a primary connection to Italian and Flemish frames of the C15th. The frame and the painting are integrated and not intended to be taken apart.
The other interesting thing about this frame is the use of gold leaf applied directly to oak timber allowing the grain to show through. Writers on the subject see this as a re-introduction by Rossetti and Brown of an old form of frame surfacing – but early frames that use this technique are hard to find. The Italian and Flemish frames that are the constant sources of these frames use ground layers under the gilding. Indeed the manuals all talk of using a ground. The only reference to simply using a size layer for gilding (which would effectively allow the appearance of the grain of the timber) found to date, relates to surfaces on furniture. It is just possible this approach to gilding a frame is an innovation of these artists. It has a huge impact and is used over and over for the rest of the C19th and beyond.
Until this time the dominant pre-occupation with the gilded frame was to create the impression of cast metal. In the C18th and even late in the C19th, there are highly successful examples of gilded frames that appear as solid cast metal forms.
Madox Brown retained this as a framing style for many years but the earliest of these frames predate what we regard as the innovations of the C19th. – the frames of the first Impressionist exhibitions don’t appear until the mid 1870’s – Whistler later again.