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Copy of The Ruthwell Cross

  • Place of origin:

    Ruthwell (Copy, made)
    Scotland (Original, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1894 (made)
    ca. 700-750 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Arrighi, Leopoldo (caster)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted plaster cast

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1894-61

  • Gallery location:

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

The original cross is over five metres tall and decorated with scenes from the Gospel. Latin and runic inscriptions are also carved around the biblical images – fragments of quotes from ‘The Dream of the Rood’, one of the oldest-known Anglo-Saxon poems. The poem tells the story of the Crucifixion from the perspective of the cross on which Christ died. The cast was made in Scotland and transported to this Museum to be displayed next to other examples of crosses from all over the British Isles.

Physical description

Plaster cast of the Ruthwell Cross carved with latin and runic inscriptions and representations of the head of St John, St Matthew, a perched eagle, and a half figure of an archer; on one face of the shaft, St John the Baptist, Christ in Majesty, St Paul, St Anthony, and the Flight into Egypt; on the opposite face, the Visitation, St Mary Magdalen anointing the feet of Christ, the Healing of the Blind Man, the Annunciation and the Crucifixion.

Place of Origin

Ruthwell (Copy, made)
Scotland (Original, made)

Date

ca. 1894 (made)
ca. 700-750 (made)

Artist/maker

Arrighi, Leopoldo (caster)

Materials and Techniques

Painted plaster cast

Marks and inscriptions

Inscriptions in Latin and runic lettering
These are lines related to the Anglo-Saxon poem The Dream of the Rood

Dimensions

Height: 527.5 cm, Width: 96.5 cm

Object history note

Cast of the Ruthwell Cross decorated with inscripotions and scenes from the gospel, cast in plaster by Leopoldo Arrighi in Ruthwell about 1894 and purchased from Leopoldo Arrighi in 1894 for £7 15s. The original is made of Sandstone and was made by an unknown artist in about 700-750 and is from the parish church of Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire, Scotland.

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 Ruthwell Cross decorated with scenes from the Gospel, cast by Leopoldo Arrighi in Ruthwell about 1894. The original was made in about 700-750.

Labels and date

Cast of
Unknown artist
The Ruthwell Cross
About 700–750

The original cross is over five metres tall and decorated with scenes from the Gospel. Latin and runic inscriptions are also carved around the biblical images – fragments of quotes from ‘The Dream of the Rood’, one of the oldest-known Anglo-Saxon poems. The poem tells the story of the Crucifixion from the perspective of the cross on which Christ died. The cast was made in Scotland and transported to this Museum to be displayed next to other examples of crosses from all over the British Isles.

Cast
Leopoldo Arrighi
About 1894
Painted plaster
Ruthwell, Scotland
Museum no. Repro.1894-61

Original
Sandstone
The parish church of Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
Conservation supported by Allchurches Trust, Owners of Ecclesiastical Insurance Group [21/06/2018]
The cross is carved with representations of the head of St John, St Matthew, a perched eagle, and a half-figure of an archer. On one face of the shaft St John the Baptist, Christ in Majesty, St Paul, St Anthony, and the Flight into Egypt are depicted. On the opposite face are shown the Visitation, St Mary Magdalen anointing the feet of Christ, the Healing of the Blind Man, the Annunciation and the Crucifixion. The inscriptions in Latin and runes are related to the Anglo-Saxon poem, The Dream of the Rood. The cast was purchased for £7 15s from the plaster-caster Leopoldo Arrighi in 1894.

Holly Trusted []

Production Note

Northumbrian

Materials

Plaster; Paint

Techniques

Casting; Painting

Subjects depicted

Archers; Cross; Eagles (birds)

Categories

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

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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