Blog post alert: A reprinted article, Reframing at the National Gallery, London: Part 1, at The Frame Blog shows several paintings in both their old frames and the frames chosen fifteen years ago. Different eras, different tastes, different impact on the viewer.
In literature, too, habits of thought affect interpretation. Authors of historical fiction can't avoid bringing assumptions and concerns of their own era into their writing. Readers cannot avoid judging older works by up-to-the-minute standards. Yet it's worth an effort to try to expand our understanding of the human condition to include other times and places. Maybe curiosities like the reframing of pictures in a museum are good metaphors for what we need to do consciously from time to time.