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The Death of General WolfeEnlarge image

The Death of General Wolfe, 1770

Benjamin West
American, British, 1738 - 1820
oil on canvas
152.6 x 214.5 cm
Transfer from the Canadian War Memorials, 1921 (Gift of the 2nd Duke of Westminster, England, 1918)
National Gallery of Canada (no. 8007)

A New Frame for West’s The Death of General Wolfe Frame: carved and gilded pine. Great Britain, c. 1775–1800 Purchased with the generous support of the Members of the National Gallery of Canada and an anonymous donor For decades The Death of General Wolfe was set in a crude reproduction of an antique frame. Now, thanks to our friends, we have been able to buy a late 18th-century frame for West’s celebrated picture. The sophisticated design draws on the contemporary fascination for ancient Roman art, but the result is distinctly new. Form and finish were carefully calculated to draw our attention. The hand-carved ornament enriches the simple design, and within the hollow the pleats of the gently undulating ribbon create a sense of movement around the painting. Gilding was a demanding process that saw thin sheets of gold leaf applied to the prepared surface; some parts were burnished to a high polish, others left matt. While now worn, the gilding is original; when new, it would have shone. This frame is a refined, elegant and richly ornamented setting for an iconic painting.

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