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Copy of a Standing Cross Shaft

Copy of a Standing Cross Shaft

  • Place of origin:

    London (Copy, made)
    Wolverhampton (Original, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1877 (made)
    ca. 850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bullen Sergeant (caster)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted plaster cast

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1880-117

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The Museum commissioned casts of a large number of standing crosses scattered across the British Isles. This enabled visitors to see them together and make comparisons. The original shaft of this one still stands where it was first erected outside in the churchyard of St Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton. The plaster cast, made in 1880, reveals some of the cross’s complex sculptural decoration, since lost on the original through weathering.

Physical description

Plaster cast of a standing cross shaft, from St. Peter's Gardens, Wolverhampton.

Place of Origin

London (Copy, made)
Wolverhampton (Original, made)

Date

ca. 1877 (made)
ca. 850 (made)

Artist/maker

Bullen Sergeant (caster)

Materials and Techniques

Painted plaster cast

Dimensions

Height: 20 ft approx.

Object history note

Cast of a standing cross shaft made in plaster by Sergeant Bullen for the South Kensington Museum in London about 1877. The original was made by an unknown artist in sandstone in Wolverhampton about 850 and is in the yard of St Peter's Church.

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 standing cross shaft made by Sergeant Bullen for the South Kensington Museum in London about 1877. The original was made in Wolverhampton about 850.

Labels and date

Cast of
Unknown artist
Shaft of a Standing Cross
About 850

The Museum commissioned casts of a large number of standing crosses scattered across the British Isles. This enabled visitors to see them together and make comparisons. The original shaft of this one still stands where it was first erected outside in the churchyard of St Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton. The plaster cast, made in 1880, reveals some of the cross’s complex sculptural decoration, since lost on the original through weathering.

Cast
Sergeant Bullen for the South Kensington Museum
About 1877
Painted plaster
London
Museum no. Repro.1880-117

Original
Sandstone
Wolverhampton, Staffordshire
In the yard of St Peter’s Church
Conservation supported by Allchurches Trust, Owners of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group [21/06/2018]

Production Note

Kingdom of Mercia

Materials

Plaster; Paint

Techniques

Casting; Painting

Subjects depicted

Cross

Categories

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

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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