NEW YORK, NY.- Eli Wilner & Company
announced the restoration of the elaborate carved and gilded period frame housing Bandits, a circa 17th century oil on canvas by Salvator Rosa in the collection of the Historic Charleston Foundations Aiken-Rhett House. This is the third frame restoration project that Wilners team has undertaken for the Aiken-Rhett House. In 2019, the Historic Charleston Foundation honored Eli Wilner & Company with the Samuel Gaillard Stoney Conservation Craftsmanship Award for its work in historic frame conservation.
In the Spring of 2022, on behalf of the Historic Charleston Foundation, Valerie Perry, the Aiken-Rhett House Museum Manager, submitted a proposal to restore the Rosa frame to Wilners ongoing partial funding program for museums. The painting has been paired with this frame since at least 1858 when the Aiken family purchased the artwork abroad. Salvator Rosas work became very popular in the 19th century even though he was a 17th century artist. Despite being one of the most valuable artworks within the collection, the frame had substantial structural damage as a result of prior insect infestations, with significant losses to the original gilding and an extremely fragile gesso layer.
Wilners studio received the frame several weeks later and began by doing a careful analysis of the frames surface and structure. Despite the losses to the gesso and gilding, and prior restoration attempts, many areas of the frame retained the original gilding and punchwork that could be preserved. In order to properly clean and stabilize the surface, the passages of hand-carved ornament had to be gently removed and treated separately. The wooden substrate of the frame was itself structurally sound, but had warped over time causing it to become off-square. This could not be corrected due to an unusual interior construction. Conservator Joanne Barry, who treated the painting while the frame was being restored, noted that there were some gaps at the sight opening making the edge of the canvas partially visible. Wilners team proposed adding a narrow gilded slip at the sight edge to match the frame and better protect the unfinished edges of the painting. The most challenging and labor-intensive part of the frame restoration process was recreating the losses in the punchwork which were done by a master carver using fine tools in small sections at a time to blend with the original pattern. Meanwhile, the temporarily removed ornaments, which had very little original gold remaining, required new gesso and clay and were regilded and patinated to match the original frame surface. After months of working on the punchwork, the frame was regilded as needed, with all losses cosmetically blended. Finally the ornaments were re-applied. In July 2023, the frame was reunited with the painting and is now back on public view.
Read more about the project on Historic Charlesons website here:
In addition to the partial funding received from Wilner to undertake this complex project, the Historic Charleston Foundations Dollar Ask program was able to make a generous financial contribution. To aid in the Foundations conservation program of the Aiken-Rhett fine and decorative art collection, the retail operations instituted this program in 2012, which requires retail associates to ask visitors for contributions toward conservation efforts at the museum houses. The program has been extremely successful and has provided funding for objects and surfaces in critical need.
Eli Wilner & Company has completed over 10,000 framing projects for private collectors, museums, and institutions including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and 28 projects for The White House.