Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Copy of a spandrel relief

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (Copy, made)
    Auxerre (Original, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1883 (made)
    ca. 1260 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted plaster cast

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Musée de la Sculpture Comparée, Palais du Trocadero

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1883-158

  • Gallery location:

    Cast Courts, The Ruddock Family Cast Court, Room 46A, case WS

The western doors of the cathedral of Auxerre in Burgundy are richly decorated. These copies of small figures from the door, which symbolise the Liberal Arts, were given to the Museum by the Musée de la Sculpture Comparée, a French collection of plaster casts at the Trocadéro in Paris. The figures were probably seen as useful elements of the decoration to be used as models by Victorian artists and designers.

Physical description

Plaster cast of a spandrel relief depicting one of a group of small figures representing (from the left) Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy, Grammar, Philosophy, Dialectic and Rhetoric, from the Baptist portal of Auxerre Cathedral, France.

Place of Origin

Paris (Copy, made)
Auxerre (Original, made)

Date

ca. 1883 (made)
ca. 1260 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Painted plaster cast

Dimensions

Height: 52.5 cm, Width: 48.5 cm

Object history note

Cast of a spandrel relief created in Paris, France, about 1883 and was given by the Musée de la Sculpture Comparée, Palais du Trocadero, Paris in 1883. The cast depicts one of a group of small figures representing (from the left) Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy, Grammar, Philosophy, Dialectic and Rhetoric, from the Baptist portal of Auxerre Cathedral, France. The relief was created by an unknown artist in Auxerre, France about 1260.

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 relief made in Paris about 1833 and depicting one of a group of small figures that symbolise the Liberal Arts made by an unknown artist in about 1260.

Labels and date

3. Casts of
Unknown artist
Spandrel Reliefs Depicting the Liberal Arts
About 1260

The western doors of the cathedral of Auxerre in Burgundy are richly decorated. These copies of small figures from the door, which symbolise the Liberal Arts, were given to the Museum by the Musée de la Sculpture Comparée, a French collection of plaster casts at the Trocadéro in Paris. The figures were probably seen as useful elements of the decoration to be used as models by Victorian artists and designers.

Casts
About 1883
Painted plaster
Paris, France
Museum nos. Repro.1883-155 to 162

Originals
Limestone
Auxerre (Burgundy), France
Auxerre Cathedral (from the jambs of the south portal, western façade) [04/07/2018]

Materials

Plaster; Paint

Techniques

Casting; Painting

Subjects depicted

Socles; Figures (representations)

Categories

Sculpture; Architecture; Plaster Cast; Copies; Cast Courts

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.