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mosaic - Ghiberti


  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain

  • Date:

    c. 1870

  • Artist/Maker:

    Fisk, William Henry, born 1827 - died 1884 (painter)
    Minton & Co. (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Ceramic mosaic

  • Museum number:

    A.32:1to 2-2013

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This mosaic representing Ghiberti is part of a cycle of monumental mosaic portraits depicting famous artists. The series of 35 mosaics was created between 1864 and circa 1875 for the South Court of the South Kensington Museum, the later V&A. The mosaics were originally installed on the side walls as part of a decorative scheme celebrating the arts. It is made after a painting by H. A. Bowler.

Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455) was a Florentine sculptor of the early Renaissance. Best known for his works in bronze, he achieved fame at the age of 23 when he won the commission to produce a set of bronze doors for Florence's Battistero di San Giovanni in 1401. These doors, which took over twenty years to complete, comprised relief panels depicting the life of Christ. In 1425, Ghiberti was commissioned to produce another set of doors for the baptistery, this time sculpting a series of Old Testament scenes known collectively as the Gates of Paradise.

The series of mostly idealised portraits against gold backgrounds soon became known by the public as the Kensington Valhalla. The term alludes to the Vallhall as eternal home of heroes in Norse mythology. It also refers to the concept of a reunion of outstanding personalities of different periods by the means of art. An earlier example of such a hall of fame is the Walhalla near Regensburg in Germany (opened in 1842).

The selection of the Kensington Valhalla includes many famous artists, from Phidias and Apelles as representatives of ancient Greece to contemporaries such as the Irish painter William Mulready who had died only five years before his mosaic was completed.

Mosaics played an important part in the canon of materials and techniques used for the interior decoration of the new South Kensington Museum. The ambitious project of a revival of the art of mosaics involved one of the major Venetian mosaic companies of the time, Salviati & Co. It also led to the innovation of the technique by the introduction of vitrified ceramic mosaics made by Minton, Hollins & Co. These ceramic mosaics were created following the cartoons of professional artists by female students, including members of the family of Henry Cole.

The Kensington Valhalla remained in place until 1949. Some of the mosaics are now on display in other galleries of the museum. In addition to the mosaics themselves, preparatory sketches and cartoons by established contemporary artists such as Edward Poynter and Lord Leighton are part of the V&A collection.

Physical description

Vertical oblong ceramic mosaic with curved top, depicting idealised full-length portrait of Ghiberti (1378-1455). In two halves.

Place of Origin

Great Britain


c. 1870


Fisk, William Henry, born 1827 - died 1884 (painter)
Minton & Co. (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Ceramic mosaic


Height: 2.675 m, Weight: 173 kg Packed, Weight: 161 kg Packed

Object history note

This mosaic was created for the decoration of the South Court of the Museum. It is part of a cycle of mosaic portraits of famous artists. They were created between 1863 and c. 1875, and installed in blind arcades on the upper level of the South Court.

Descriptive line

ceramic mosaic, depicting idealised full-length portrait of Ghiberti (1378-1455).

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

pp.62-67, no. 10
Physick, John. The Victoria and Albert Museum: The History of Its Building. London: The Victoria & Albert Museum, 1982.






Ceramics; Mosaic; History of the V&A


Sculpture Collection

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