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  • Place of origin:

    Budapest (made)

  • Date:

    1885 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest (made by)

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Place of Origin

Budapest (made)


1885 (made)


Museum of Applied Arts, Budapest (made by)

Object history note

This electrotype impression of a cup was bought by the Museum in 1885 from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Budapest, Hungary. The original cup from which it was copied is now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

Electrotype copies were used as design aids for artists, artisans and students in the government schools of design which were run under the aegis of the Department of Science and Art.

As an electrotype the cup is an example of a 19th-century design model. Electrotypes play a key role in helping us to understand the V&A in its earliest days. The Museum grew largely out of the Great Exhibition in 1851 and, under the guidance of Henry Cole, sought to arrest the perceived decline in British design. The Museum aimed, initially, to collect 'modern manufactures' for the education of manufacturers, designers and the public, with a long-term goal of improving the quality and quantity of Britain's manufactured goods. Cole was also in charge of the Government Schools of Design, which he set about reforming. Cole passionately believed in the potential of both museums and the schools of design, to raise standards of taste.

The appointment of John Charles Robinson as curator of the Museum in 1853 heralded a slight change in focus. Under Robinson and Cole historic works of art were seen as just as instructive as contemporary work. For Cole and Robinson, if historic works of art could not be acquired, copies were a perfectly viable alternative.

The aim of the Museum was to present a lesson in world ornament. The Museum bought electrotypes as part of its growing collection of reproductions. This collection enabled students to look closely at both modern and historic objects that were otherwise inaccessible. Electrotypes provided the same function as the Museum's collection of plaster casts. They sit alongside photography, invented around the same time, as the products of revolutionary new technology that enabled the reproduction of works of art to be made available to a wide audience. The relationship with photography is close. The electrotypes were not generally working copies. They were impressions of the outside surfaces of an object, in effect, 3-dimensional photographs.

Descriptive line

Electrotype. From the C19th Register: "CUP. The original, of gold, set with cloisonné enamel, found at Nagy-Szent-Miklós, Hungary, in 1799, is in the Imperial Cabinet of Antiquities, Vienna. Ornamented in relief, and with fabulous animals in medallions on the bowl. Scythian? 4th centy? H. 2 1/2 in., diam. 3 3/4 in. Bought of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Buda-Pesth, 2l. 2s. 6d."




Metalwork Collection

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