Amazing Frame for Historic Painting

NEW YORK, NY.- Eli Wilner & Company had the privilege of becoming part of the history of the New York Historical Society's monumental painting, Return of the 69th Regiment, by Louis Lang.

The painting depicts the "Irish Brigade" of the New York State Militia returning to the city during the Civil War on July 27th, 1861 after a 3 month tour of duty in Washington, DC. Ranks of soldiers fill the midsection of the painting having just disembarked from the steamer John Potter, which is seen in the distance docked at Pier 1 on Bowling Green, with a view of the bustling New York harbor beyond.

Along with the decision to have the painting expertly conserved, the New-York Historical Society examined in detail the only documentation of the original frame: a partial view of the painting captured in a stereoscopic image of the Great Central Fair in Philadelphia in 1864.

Though not a detailed image, it was clear that the frame was a wide molding of dark wood with a gilded sight edge. Working together, the NYHS curators and Wilner frame historians deduced that the original frame had an angled mahogany panel, with a reeded top rail and a strap motif at the corners.

The New-York Historical Society wanted to re-create the original frame as closely as possible, and so they turned to Eli Wilner & Company.

Working together the NYHS curators and Wilner frame historians deduced that the original frame had an angled mahogany panel, with a reeded top rail and a strap motif at the corners. The width of the frame was determined to be a massive 14 ½ inches.

In preparing to handle such a large frame, the NYHS requested that the frame be created in such a way that it could be separated at the corners and re-assembled repeatedly by museum technicians. Wilber's craftspeople installed specially-designed support blocks and removable bolts at each corner to enable the miters to be joined securely. The corner elements were carved separately in mahogany so that when installed they cover the seam at the corner. Lang’s painting now hangs in the Eli Wilner replica of the original mahogany frame.

World's Top Framer

Eli Wilner & Company is now the world’s largest resource for antique frames, with over 3,000 frames in its collection. The company creates marriages of painting and frame consistent with style, artistic composition, and historical period. The company also operates a professional studio, employing skilled craftspeople providing full frame restoration services as well as precise frame replication.

The company has worked extensively with the White House, reframing over two-dozen American paintings from the collection.

In addition, Eli Wilner & Company has worked with some of the nation’s most prominent museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum as well as leading auction houses Sotheby's and Christie's.

In 2015, Eli Wilner & Company announced two initiatives that are unique in their field. One is the first-ever fully funded frame conservation grants for American museums. Wilner assembled a group of distinguished jurors to select the award recipients in early 2016. The second is a program to provide frames to consignors of artworks to auction houses and galleries with no upfront costs. In this program, the owner of the artwork is required to agree to purchase the frame, with the payment due only after the successful sale of the artwork. If the artwork fails to find a buyer, the frame is returned to Wilner, and no charges apply. This structure is unique in the ultra-high-end framing industry, as it protects the consignor from the financial risk of framing in advance of offering an artwork for sale.

This video, from PBS's Treasures of New York series, details the NYHS project: