Washington Crossing the Delaware

An Eli Wilner & Company replica frame is worlds apart from other reproduction frames in the market.

Unlike most framemakers, we haven't developed a repertoire of styles that we mill in quantity and then tweak for each order. Each frame selection is made by drawing upon our knowledge of historical frame styles and selected from our inventory of over 3,000 period frames. The original is then beside the craftsman throughout the process for close reference on detail and surface.

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 then new ornament is made 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.

To give you a glimpse of the extensive workmanship that goes into each Eli Wilner & Company frame we show here a series of images that detail the making of the monumental frame for the iconic 'Washington Crossing the Delaware' by Emmanuel Leutze at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Based on a 19th century photo by Matthew Brady showing the painting in the original frame, the 12’ X 21’ replica frame was carefully crafted. The carved eagle-topped crest alone is 14' wide!

Emmanuel Leutze’s iconic painting Washington Crossing the Delaware in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art was reframed several times since its initial exhibition in 1851. This simple, unremarkable frame had been on the painting since about 1980.

A series of photographs by Matthew Brady of the 1864 Art Exhibition at the Metropolitan Fair in Aid of the United States Sanitary Commission came to light and showed the painting in its striking and dramatic 19th century frame.

Working in partnership with museum curators and researchers the many design elements of the frame were determined. The wide cove molding with its running acanthus leaf pattern near the sight edge and overlapping leaf motif on the top rail were crafted and assembled.

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 completed frame now shows the monumental painting to dramatic effect.

19th century photo by Matthew Brady showing the painting, 'Washington Crossing the Delaware', in the original frame Washington Crossing the Delaware colour image in frame
Construction of the replica frame showing the 12' x 21' frame in the restauration studio A detailed section of the frame crest during reproduction A craftsman working on the eagle during construction of the frame Detail of the top of the frame showing an eagle, bayonets and flags

By far the most extensive work involved the 14’ wide eagle-topped crest. Consisting of many objects specific to war, the crest contains flags, pikes, bayonets, a drum, munitions case and shield atop which rests a stately spread-winged eagle.

Underneath the assembly a furled ribbon reads, “First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen,” a line excerpted from Henry Lee’s eulogy to Washington in 1799.

Close-up of the eagle as the gilding process occurs Detailed gilding of the frame An expert begins intricate chiselling on the eagle breast The majestic eagle atop the frame before gilding

The majestic eagle was carved separately and the attached to the rest of the crest. The final result is magnificent.

The completed majestic eagle, atop a shield, bayonets and pikes, completed with beautiful gilding Washington Crossing the Delaware with completed, gilded reproduction frame