Wilner Installation at Lyndhurst
Lyndhurst, a historic site of the National Trust, is one of the great domestic landmarks of America
In early 2014, Eli Wilner & Company was chosen by Lyndhurst Mansion to collaborate with its staff in restoring and re-hanging the estate’s grand Picture Gallery.
Lyndhurst mansion is considered by many architectural historians to be the most significant American house of the 19th century. Designed by Alexander Jackson Davis--the Frank Lloyd Wright of the 19th century--in 1838, the house has been owned by New York City mayor William Paulding, Jr., merchant George Merritt, and railroad tycoon Jay Gould. It was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1961 by Gould’s youngest daughter, Anna, Duchess of Talleyrand. Because the house was always a country residence, it was sold, over time, with virtually all its contents and the mansion is fortunate to have retained the large majority of period decoration from each of its owners. Public tours of the mansion and surrounding grounds are offered seasonally May through September. Lyndhurst has also served as a location for filming of major motion pictures.
To begin the multi-faceted process of restoring The Picture Gallery, Eli Wilner & Company sent a team up to Tarrytown, NY for an on-site overview of the project with Lyndhurst’s Executive Director Howard Zar and the Preservation Manager Krsytyn Hastings-Silver. They had provided Wilner in advance with a list of the most critical items such as frames that sustained damage over time or paintings that had lost their original frames and had been in storage for years. During this visit, the Wilner team took extensive photographs and notes in order to create a proposal that would provide the maximum benefit to the total collection while taking into consideration a challenging time frame and budget limitations.
It was decided Eli Wilner & Company would create three period-appropriate replica frames for important paintings that were inadequately displayed: a painting by Rico y Ortega was in a crumbling frame that was actually just the interior liner of a much larger frame, a painting by Jean Beraud that was not only in an inappropriate 20th Century reproduction frame, but had also been unnecessarily fit directly against a piece of non-glare glass, and a painting by Addison Millar that had been tucked away in storage because it was frameless.
In addition to these most urgent items, many frames in the overall collection had suffered damage from various environmental factors and age. It was decided that the four pieces with the most severe damage would be transported to the Wilner studio for full frame restoration and that all others would receive on-site cosmetic frame restoration and stabilization during the re-installation.
When the new replica frames and studio frame restoration projects were complete, Wilner sent an installation team to oversee the extensive re-hanging of pictures, maintaining the multi-tiered Victorian style of hanging that has been documented in photographs since the 1870s, and bringing many of the best works in the collection to eye level. The three storey picture gallery is the piece de resistance of Lyndhurst. The room is set with an extensive suite of Davis-designed furniture and a massive stained glass window overlooking the Hudson River that has been attributed to Louis Comfort Tiffany. The extensive collection of paintings was assembled by railroad baron Jay Gould and his daughters includes works by Gustave Courbet, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Theodore Rousseau, Charles Daubigny, Jean-Leon Gerome, Jean Beraud and Bouguereau.
This is not the first time that Wilner and Lyndhurst have collaborated on frame restoration. In 2006, Lyndhurst restored its magnificent parlor to its original 1842 appearance. While much of the original furniture remained in the collection, the two Gothic Revival pier mirrors above the parlor mantels had long been removed and replaced in an 1882 redecoration. Using period photographs from 1870, the Wilner craftsmen were able to create exact replicas of the lost Alexander Jackson Davis originals – these were gifted to Lyndhurst Mansion by Eli Wilner & Company.
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