Eli Wilner & Company reframes two 15th Century altarpiece panels for the Eskenazi Museum of Art
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Eli Wilner & Company reframes two 15th Century altarpiece panels for the Eskenazi Museum of Art
The Adoration of the Magi and The Resurrection, ca. 1490, attributed to Master of the Holy Kinship, oil on panel, each approximately 54 x 37 inches, in the collection of the Eskenazi Museum of Art, in replica frames by Eli Wilner & Company.

NEW YORK, NY.- Eli Wilner & Company recently created new historically-appropriate replica frames for two late 15th Century German altarpiece wings in the Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection. These paintings​ will be back on public view beginning November 7, 2019, after an extensive renovation of the museum and reinstallation of its galleries.

In April of 2019, Jennifer McComas, the Eskenazi’s Curator of European and American Art, contacted Wilner about the project. The two exterior panels, t​itled: “The Adoration of the Magi” and “The Resurrection”, are attributed to the Master of the Holy Kinship, active circa 1475-1510 in Cologne, Germany. Each panel measures approximately 54 x 37 inches and is dated circa 1490. Appropriately framing works of this scale can be a financial challenge for an institution of any size. Eli Wilner & Company were pleased to be able to offer matching funds to offset the cos​ts that would exceed the curatorial budget.

McComas provided some initial research images of frames to start the conversation, including an image of other panels from the same altarpiece, now in another collection. Further research was done by the Wilner staff to offer a range of appropriate aesthetic choices. In the end, the decision was reached to replicate the frame from the provided documentary photograph of the related panel, for the Eskenazi’s two panels.

After the width of the molding was precisely determined using digital mockups, the Wilner team began working on detailed profile drawings. The asymmetrical nature of this frame, with different ornaments at the top and bottom miters, required two entirely distinct profiles that were able to merge elegantly. Special considerations also needed to be made regarding preparing the frames to safely hold the panels themselves.​ ​ Panels of this period have frequently warped over time and occasionally have complicated structural appendages from previous installations. The Eskenazi Museum’s ​Beverly & Gayl W. Doster Paintings Conservator, Julie Ribits, provided Wilner with precise tracings of the two panels in order to cross-check for any special allowances that needed to be made.

The first stage of creating this pair of matching frames was the shaping of the basswood substrate. The resulting complex moldings were then securely joined at the miters and the labor-intensive phase of hand carving the ornaments began. After the carving was complete, several layers of gesso were applied and finely sanded. The frame was then returned to the master carver in order to have the ornament details further refined, including chasing areas where the gesso may have obscured the design. The entire frame was then painted with layers of ochre and red clay in preparation for water gilding. After the gold leaf was applied with gilder’s liquor and a squirrel hair brush, extensive selective burnishing was done. Finally, using a combination of paints, inks and wax, along with observations of period frames in nearby museum collections, the frame was finished with a period-appropriate patina.

The frames were then crated and shipped to the Museum where the conservation team installed the panels. ​Four other Wilner rep​lica frames, created over the course of 2018, will also be newly on view this November: ​“Caesar Augustus Surrounded by the Fine Arts” by ​Hyacinthe ​Collin de Vermont, “Winter Twilight” by Sanford Robinson Gifford, “Merzbild 13A” by Kurt Schwitters, and “Injured Child”​ by ​Yasuo Kuniyoshi.

Eli Wilner & Company is honored to have been chosen by the Eskenazi Museum of Art to appropriately reframe this selection of masterpieces ranging from the late 15th Century to the mid-20th Century. They hope other institutions are inspired to revisit the reframing possibilities within their own collections, and are invited to submit projects for consideration. Matching funds for nonprofit and government-supported institutions are available on an ongoing basis​.

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