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Effigy of Sir Ralph Fitzherbert

  • Object:

    Copy of an Effigy

  • Place of origin:

    London (Copy

    (probably), made)
    Derbyshire (Original, made)

  • Date:

    after 1850 (made)
    ca. 1485-1500 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plaster cast

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Architectural Association

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.A.1916-214

  • Gallery location:

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

These plaster casts record the finely carved details of both figures, although they do not convey the surface of the polished alabaster seen in the original effigies. This stone was prized for its luminosity and frequently used for tombs and funerary effigies in England during the 14th and 15th centuries.

Physical description

Plaster cast of the Effigy of Sir Ralph Fitzherbert.

Place of Origin

London (Copy

(probably), made)
Derbyshire (Original, made)

Date

after 1850 (made)
ca. 1485-1500 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Plaster cast

Dimensions

Length: 208.5 cm, Width: 53.5 cm

Object history note

Copy of an effigy of Sir Ralph Fitzherbert made form plaster, probably made in London after 1850 and given by the Architectural Association in 1916. The original was made from alabaster in Derbyshire about 1485-1500 and is from St Mary and St Barlock's Church, Norbury. It is one of two effigies with the other being that of Lady Elizabeth Fitzherbert.

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 an effigy of Sir Ralph Fitzherbert probably made in London after 1850. The original was made in Derbyshire about 1485-1500.

Labels and date

Casts of
Unknown artist
Effigies of Sir Ralph Fitzherbert and Elizabeth, Lady Fitzherbert
About 1485–1500

These plaster casts record the finely carved details of both figures, although they do not convey the surface of the polished alabaster seen in the original effigies. This stone was prized for its luminosity and frequently used for tombs and funerary effigies in England during the 14th and 15th centuries.

Casts
After 1850
Plaster
Probably London
Given by the Architectural Association in 1916
Museum nos. Repro.A.1916-214, 215

Originals
Alabaster
Derbyshire
St Mary and St Barlock’s Church, Norbury [21/06/2018]
There are two sorts of alabaster. Calcite alabaster is very hard and was used in ancient times. This object is made of gypsum alabaster which is a fine-grained, soft and smooth stone. Although at first glance it looks a little like marble, which it was intended to imitate, it was much easier to carve due to its softness, and alabaster objects were therefore significantly cheaper to produce. Marble does not originate in England, so it was imported if needed, whereas in the 15th century there were important alabaster quarries in Nottingham, York, Burton-on-Trent and London. England was a major centre for the production of objects such as this one. During period, they were exported in very large numbers to Europe where they survive, unlike many examples which remained in England and were destroyed or greatly damaged during the Reformation.

Plaster cast of the Effigy of Sir Ralph Fitzherbert (d. 1483), late 15th century, from Norbury Church, Norbury, Derbyshire.

Shargroves []

Materials

Plaster

Techniques

Casting

Subjects depicted

Figures (representations); Sepulchral monuments

Categories

Sculpture; Plaster Cast; Copies; Cast Courts

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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