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Copy of a Font

  • Place of origin:

    England (Copy, made)
    Cumbria (Original, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1860 (cast)
    ca. 1150-75 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Richard, Master (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted plaster cast

  • Credit Line:

    Given by FBL Dykes, Esq.

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1863-26

  • Gallery location:

    Cast Courts, The Ruddock Family Cast Court, Room 46A, case FS, shelf C

The cast is taken from a 12th-century stone font that was well-known in the 19th century. Scholars had discussed its inscription written in runes for hundreds of years, and most guidebooks to Cumbria noted that the church where it was situated was of great interest. The figure holding a chisel is the sculptor of the font himself, Richard. This detail would have been especially significant for the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A), as its mission was to highlight the work of sculptors, artists and designers.

Physical description

Plaster cast of a font with representations of the Baptism of Christ, symbolical beasts, the figure of the sculptor holding a chisel, and a runic inscription.

Place of Origin

England (Copy, made)
Cumbria (Original, made)

Date

ca. 1860 (cast)
ca. 1150-75 (made)

Artist/maker

Richard, Master (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques

Painted plaster cast

Marks and inscriptions

Runic inscription
'Richard wrought me and carefully brought me to this beauty'

Dimensions

Height: 64 cm

Object history note

Cast of a font depicting the Baptism of Christ and symbolic beasts, made in plaster in England about 1860, and given by F.B.L. Dykes, Esq in 1863. The original was sculpted by Master Richard from Limsetone in Cumbria about 1150-75. The original is in the church of St Bridget, Bridekirk.

Historical context note

Making plaster copies is a centuries-old tradition that reached the height of its popularity during the 19th century. The V&A's casts are of large-scale architectural and sculptural works as well as small scale, jewelled book covers and ivory plaques, these last known as fictile ivories.

The Museum commissioned casts directly from makers and acquired others in exchange. Oronzio Lelli, of Florence was a key overseas supplier while, in London, Giovanni Franchi and Domenico Brucciani upheld a strong Italian tradition as highly-skilled mould-makers, or formatori.

Some casts are highly accurate depictions of original works, whilst others are more selective, replicating the outer surface of the original work, rather than its whole structure. Like a photograph, they record the moment the cast was taken: alterations, repairs and the wear and tear of age are all reproduced in the copies. The plasters can also be re-worked, so that their appearance differs slightly from the original from which they were taken.

To make a plaster cast, a negative mould has to be taken of the original object. The initial mould could be made from one of several ways. A flexible mould could be made by mixing wax with gutta-percha, a rubbery latex product taken from tropical trees. These two substances formed a mould that had a slightly elastic quality, so that it could easily be removed from the original object. Moulds were also made from gelatine, plaster or clay, and could then be used to create a plaster mould to use for casting.
When mixed with water, plaster can be poured into a prepared mould, allowed to set, and can be removed to produce a finished solid form. The moulds are coated with a separating or paring agent to prevent the newly poured plaster sticking to them. The smooth liquid state and slight expansion while setting allowed the quick drying plaster to infill even the most intricate contours of a mould.
Flatter, smaller objects in low relief usually require only one mould to cast the object. For more complex objects, with a raised surface, the mould would have to be made from a number of sections, known as piece-moulds. These pieces are held together in the so-called mother-mould, in order to create a mould of the whole object. Once the object has been cast from this mother-mould, the piece-moulds can be easily removed one by one, to create a cast of the three-dimensional object.

Descriptive line

Plaster cast of a font with a representation of the Baptism of Christ and symbolic beasts, made in England about 1860. The original was made by Master Richard in about 1150-75.

Labels and date

Cast of
Master Richard
Font
About 1150–75

The cast is taken from a 12th-century stone font that was well-known in the 19th century. Scholars had discussed its inscription written in runes for hundreds of years, and most guidebooks to Cumbria noted that the church where it was situated was of great interest. The figure holding a chisel is the sculptor of the font himself, Richard. This detail would have been especially significant for the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A), as its mission was to highlight the work of sculptors, artists and designers.

Cast
About 1860
Painted plaster
England
Given by F.B.L. Dykes, Esquire
Museum no. Repro.1863-26

Original
Limestone
Cumbria, England
In the church of St Bridget, Bridekirk
[21/06/2018]

Materials

Plaster; Paint

Techniques

Casting; Painting

Subjects depicted

Fonts (religious building fixtures); Figures (representations); Mythological beasts

Categories

Sculpture; Architecture; Christianity; Plaster Cast; Copies; Cast Courts

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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