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Copy of a Left Doorway

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (Original, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1873 (made)
    ca. 1065 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Leers, Cesare (caster)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted plaster cast

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1873-369

  • Gallery location:

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

This plaster cast reproduces the upper left portion of a highly ornamented door depicting scenes from the life of Christ. When the cast was made, the door hung in the north transept of the Church of St Maria im Kapitol, Cologne, but was later moved inside the church to protect it from the weather. The original has an inscription running around the outside and traces of coloured decoration, but these have not been replicated on the copy, which instead was made to provide examples of the reliefs for study.

Physical description

Plaster cast of the upper left portion of a highly ornamented doorway decorated with scenes showing the Annunciation and Visitation, the Annunciation to the Shepards, the Nativity, the Magi before Herod, and the Adoration of the Magi. The original has an inscription running around the outside and traces of coloured decoration, but these have not been replicated on the cast.

Place of Origin

Germany (Original, made)

Date

ca. 1873 (made)
ca. 1065 (made)

Artist/maker

Leers, Cesare (caster)

Materials and Techniques

Painted plaster cast

Dimensions

Height: 170.5 cm, Width: 112 cm

Object history note

Cast of the uper left portion of a doorway depicting scenes from the life of Christ made by Cesare Leers about 1873 and purchased from Cesare Leers in 1873 for £12. The original was made by an unknown artist in Germany about 1065. The door originally hung in the north transept of the Church of St Maria im Kapitol, Cologne, but was later moved inside the church to protect it from the weather. The original has an inscription running around the outside and traces of coloured decoration, but these have not been replicated on the copy, which instead was made to provide examples of the reliefs for study.

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 the upper left portion of a doorway depicting scenes from the Life of Christ. The cast was made by Cesare Leers in about 1873. The original was made in about 1065.

Labels and date

Cast of
Unknown artist
Door from Church of St Maria im Kapitol
About 1065

This plaster cast reproduces the upper left portion of a highly ornamented door depicting scenes from the life of Christ. When the cast was made, the door hung in the north transept of the Church of St Maria im Kapitol, Cologne, but was later moved inside the church to protect it from the weather. The original has an inscription running around the outside and traces of coloured decoration, but these have not been replicated on the copy, which instead was made to provide examples of the reliefs for study.

Cast
Cesare Leers
About 1873
Painted plaster cast
Museum no. Repro.1873-369

Original
Carved wood
Church of St Maria im Kapitol, Cologne, Germany
[21/06/2018]

Materials

Plaster; Paint

Techniques

Casting; Painting

Subjects depicted

Magi

Categories

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

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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