Collection Online
The Garden of Love
oil, tempera and gold on spruce panel
152.5 × 239.0 cm
Accession Number
International Painting
Credit Line
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Felton Bequest, 1948
This digital record has been made available on NGV Collection Online through the generous support of Digitisation Champion Ms Carol Grigor through Metal Manufactures Limited
Gallery location
16th & 17th Century Gallery - Painting and Sculpture
Mezzanine linked to Level 1, NGV International


The Garden of Love, c.1460, Studio of Antonio Vivarini, acquired in 1948, was housed in a nineteenth century Pre-Raphaelite style frame of wood and gilded composition. At some time the frame had been over painted with a greenish bronze paint. The frame is a mixture of tabernacle and entablature styles, illustrating the complexity with which the image has been received since the nineteenth century.
The frame is the one in which the picture was displayed in 1934, illustrated by a photograph published in Country Life magazine in that year.
The Garden of Love is a rare secular painting from fifteenth century Italy and our reading of it is complicated by presenting it in a devotional style frame.
We no longer have the framing system which originally presented the work and there is a lack of reference material offering conclusive stylistic evidence for how it might originally have been displayed. If we accept the work as decorative, fitting an architectural scheme then the framing would refer more to architectural embellishment. It is possible that the margins of timber on either side suggest an engaged framing system but the margin is not very wide and an engaged frame may be less likely on a work of this type and scale.
Investigations into the reframing of the panel started in 1987.
A major program of structural work with the panel took place in 1992.
A proposal to build a new frame for the painting, based on a plain cassetta form, was put forward again in July 2016.
The new frame for the work is based in the concept of simple cassetta forms, referencing frames in the collection along with literature sources. A notable feature of this framing form is the relationship of the flat of the frame to the picture plane. They should appear to be aligned, allowing the frame to form a border around the image rather than on top of the image. This has been a primary concern in the reframing design.
The frame was built from western red cedar and Californian redwood. The mouldings were shaped as individual pieces and added to the flat of the frame with glue and nails. The corner joints are mortise and tenon. The frame was gilded with 23 carat gold leaf and distressed. Shaped sections were cut to fit the undulating curves of the panel securely into the rebate of the frame. The painting was fitted into the frame in December 2016. 
The re-framing of the panel was accompanied by a new program of restoration work with the image. 

Reproduction - crafted by the NGV

Western red cedar and Californian redwood, gold leaf.