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Lot 0360


Eli Wilner Frame, Small Washington Crossing the Delaware Frame

A handcrafted bespoke frame in the likeness of Eli Wilner's most well-known work, which surrounds Emanuel Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851, that is prominently on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's American Wing. The successful bidder will have the opportunity to own a piece of history.

As opposed to mass-produced frames, original Eli Wilner hand-crafted frames are created by craftspeople at Eli Wilner using the same skills and tools used during the period and required countless hours to produce and finish.

Sight size (opening): 8 3/4 x 15 1/5 inches

Overall size: 12 1/2 x 17 1/4 inches

Condition: Made by Eli Wilner and Company in the past 20 years. Fine condition. More detailed condition reports and additional photographs are available by request. The photographs attempt to show the condition of the frame. Please request a condition report through the online bidding platform or call Guernsey's at 212-794-2280 to request a more thorough condition report.

Perhaps Wilner's greatest framing accomplishment came when it was commissioned by New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art to create the astounding 14 by 23-foot gold-leafed frame, with a remarkable 14-foot hand-carved 1776 crest, that surrounds the Met's largest and most visited painting. Mr. Wilner speaks of the frame as "a tour de force, absolutely the most creative and involved surround for a painting that I have ever seen." The studio spent months meticulously handcrafting the frame from the millwork to the gold leaf gilding. The Wilner Studio created the frame-based off a series of photographs by Matthew Brady of the striking 19th-century frame that was featured at the 1864 Art Exhibition at the Metropolitan Fair in Aid of the United States Sanitary Commission.

The 14-foot eagle crest consists of many objects specific to war such as flags, pikes, bayonets, a drum, munitions case, and shield. Underneath the assembly a furled ribbon reads, "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen," a line excepted from Henry Lee's eulogy to Washington in 1799. The frame was constructed with the utmost attention to detail with a wide cove molding with its running acanthus leaf pattern near the sight edge and overlapping leaf motif on the top rail. Each corner bears a round shield with carved flourishes. In preparation for the application of gold leaf, the carved crest was painted with bole, a special liquid clay. Using over 12,500 sheets of gold, the entire frame was gilded.

The profile is hand-milled and shaped and all the carving is done by hand as well. If there are applied ornaments on the frame precise molds are made of the original frame elements and with new ornament made from the molds for the replica frame. If the original frame being replicated is carved then the replica is also hand carved. The finishes are then carefully executed; we find that the sensitivity of the finish has a huge impact on the overall look of the replica. The frame is water-gilded and carefully patinated to render the appearance of age with all its nuances and subtleties. The result is a frame that has the charm and beauty of a period frame.

For decades, the name Eli Wilner & Company has been synonymous with picture frames of the highest quality, hand-crafted using old-world artisanship. Following the conclusion of prominent museum exhibitions or important art auctions, frames the Company loaned for those occasions were returned and became part of the Eli Wilner Classic Frame Collection. Now, the more than four hundred beautiful frames constituting this remarkable Collection will be presented at auction for those who appreciate the very finest.

Starting Price


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Eli Wilner Frame, Small Washington Crossing Frame

Estimate $10,000 - $15,000
$3,2500 bids
Starting Price $3,250
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