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St Stephen being stoned

  • Object:

    Copy of a relief

  • Place of origin:

    France (Copy, made)
    France (Original, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1850-1900 (made)
    1258–85 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plaster cast

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Architectural Association

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.A.1916-3161

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

St Stephen is known as the first Christian martyr. He was stoned to death for his teachings, which were considered blasphemous by the supreme Jewish law court, the Sanhedrin, in Jerusalem. In this relief he is depicted as a young deacon, holding up his arms in self-defence. The cast was taken from Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, which is rich in French Gothic decoration.

Physical description

Plaster cast of a relief depicting St. Stephen being stoned. In this relief he is depicted as a young deacon, holding up his arms in self-defence.

Place of Origin

France (Copy, made)
France (Original, made)

Date

ca. 1850-1900 (made)
1258–85 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Plaster cast

Dimensions

Height: 77 cm, Width: 77 cm

Object history note

Cast of a relief created in France, 1850–1900 and given to the museum by the Architectural Association in 1916. The cast depicts St. Stephen, known as the first Christian martyr, being stoned and is found on the stone tympanum of the door of the South transept of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris. The original was sculpted by an unknown artist in France, 1258–85.

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 1850-1900, depicting St Stephen being stoned to death. The original was made by an unknown artist in 1258–85.

Labels and date

Cast of
Unknown artist
Figure of St Stephen
1258–85

St Stephen is known as the first Christian martyr. He was stoned to death for his teachings, which were considered blasphemous by the supreme Jewish law court, the Sanhedrin, in Jerusalem. In this relief he is depicted as a young deacon, holding up his arms in self-defence. The cast was taken from Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, which is rich in French Gothic decoration.

Cast
1850–1900
Plaster
France
Museum no. Repro.A.1916-3161

Original
Stone
France
Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris (south transept portal, tympanum) [04/07/2018]

Materials

Plaster

Techniques

Casting

Subjects depicted

Tympana

Categories

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

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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