Copy of a Frieze

1884 (made), 16th century (made)
Copy of a Frieze thumbnail 1
Copy of a Frieze thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Cast Courts, Room 46, The Chitra Nirmal Sethia Gallery
Place Of Origin

Plaster cast depicting an architectural ornamented frieze.

object details
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Plaster cast
Brief Description
Plaster cast of an architectural frieze, probably made by the Union Centrale des Arts Decoratifs (now the Musee des Arts Decoratifs) in Paris in 1884.
Physical Description
Plaster cast depicting an architectural ornamented frieze.
  • Width: 1850mm
  • Height: 390mm
  • Depth: 100mm
Gallery Label
Cast of Architectural frieze, 1560–70 Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs (now the Musée des Arts Décoratifs), Paris, 1884 The ReACH declaration looks to the future, encouraging the documenting of archaeological sites and artworks at risk. It highlights the significance some historic casts now have as accidental records of heritage that has vanished since the copies were made. This cast records a frieze by the Renaissance architect, Philibert de l’Orme, which once decorated the Tuileries Palace in Paris. The palace was burned in 1871 by the revolutionary Paris Commune and demolished twelve years later, making this plaster cast a valuable 3D image from a historic building now lost through conflict. Plaster cast, painted surface Museum no. Repro.1884-716(30.11.18)
Object history
Cast of an architectural frieze created in 1884 by the Union Centrale des Arts Decoratifs (now the Musee des Arts Decoratifs) in Paris. The cast is of an original stone frieze that was designed by Philibert de l'Orme in 16th century and decorated the Tuileries Palace in Paris. The palace was burnt down by the Paris Commune in 1871 and was subsequently demolished 12 years later.
Historical context
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.

Accession Number

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record createdJune 24, 2009
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