Apr 152011

Just to explain first what you will see on this page:
The pictures show some specimen from V&A’s „Cast courts“. The Cast Courts show reproductions of historical busts, statues, effigies, even parts of complete buildings. These reproductions were made by taking molds from the original busts, statues, etc (probably by covering them with latex, so that the dried, pulled-off latex would work as the mold), and then – from these molds – plaster casts were made, which are now on display in those Cast courts.
A good example how this is done can be seen here, on a non-finished cast of the head of Queen Elizabeth I’s effigy in Westminster Abbey:

You can perfectly still see the spaces between the single, different molds that created this plaster cast.

A fairly good example why such plaster casts are good for something (besides enabling a museum to show something that, in its original state, is in a different country) is this bust here, of which the original has been destroyed during WWI in Berlin. By looking at this perfect cast, we can still look at something that was destroyed in the last century.

Plaster Cast, c. 1472
Portrait of a woman after original of marble, painted and gilded by Francesco Laurana, formerly in Berlin, destroyed 1945
The lost portrait bust of Berlin had the remains of extensive pigmentation, and the faint, incised decoration of the dress was, on the original, a richly gilded pattern. The hole at the breast may once have been covered by a metal brooch or pendant, and the cartouche might have originally contained the sitter’s name.

And one more note on the size of some of these plaster casts:
Remember that I was standing upright while taking these pictures. I stand 5’7“ tall. Now look at the following picture…:

…which will still not tell you much about the size of this plaster-casted portal I photographed; however, this picture, which also shows a person, probably will…:

This other portal here is approximately 20 yards high, give rather than take a few yards to this estimation just to be sure…

The casted column here extends almost to the roof, as you can see. It must therefore be much taller than the aforementioned portal, which only extends to the first floor.

And the size of this terrace can be estimated by looking for the two people which are also in the picture. Go figure about size…

Now – there is one thing that I found in those Cast courts, and that is Beatrice D’Este’s Tomb – it’s so beautiful that I thought it would deserve its own page. So click on the link if you want to see her.

Plaster Cast, 1406-7
Tomb of Ilaria del Carretto (d. December, 1405) by Jacopo della Quercia in the Cathredral, Lucca
The cast was made in 1899.


Plaster cast with restored gilding, 1291-93
Tomb effigy, in gilt bronze of Queen Eleanor of Castile, first wife of Edward I. in the Confessor’s Chapel, Westminster Abbey, by William Torel

Plaster Cast (with restored pigmentation), French, middle of 13th century
Tomb, in wood, of Isabella d’Angoulème, Queen of John of England (died 1246) in the Abbey of Fontevrault

Plaster cast of Effigies, in alabaster, late 15th century
Sir Ralph Fitzherbert (died 1438) and his wife Elizabeth
Norbury church, Derbyshire.

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