Bust of a Woman thumbnail 1
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Cast Courts, Room 46b, The Weston Cast Court

Bust of a Woman

Plaster Cast
1472 (sculpted), ca. 1889 (cast)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This cast is taken from one of nine female portrait busts ascribed to the Italian renaissance sculptor Francesco Laurana on the basis of their resemblance to a series of documented groups of the Virgin and Child by the artist. Two of those nine busts - in the Frick Collection, New York, and in the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. - are closely related to this portrait, and even appear to represent the same person. They have similar bases decorated with classicizing figures. Remains of extensive pigmentation survive on the marble, along with faint incised decoration of the dress, to form a richly gilded pattern. The cavity on the breast may once have been covered by a metal brooch or pendant, and the cartouche might have originally been inscribed with the sitter's name. The sitter has been tentatively identified as Ippolita Maria Sforza, the wife of King Alfonso II of Naples, although this identification is hypothetical.

During a fire towards the end of the Second World War, the marble portrait head in Berlin was divided from the rest of the bust, including its decorative base. The shoulders and integral base are now in Moscow, while the head is in the Bode Museum, Berlin. This plaster cast was made in the 1880s, before this extensive damage to the marble original.

Plaster casts were especially sought after during the 19th century, when reproductions of great works of sculpture and architecture were thought crucial for the training of artists. A separating substance was applied to the surface of the work to be reproduced, and a plaster mould made from that. The mould would then be used to make any number of additional plaster copies. These were often sold to artists, and later in the century to art colleges for study purposes.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Plaster cast
Brief Description
Plaster cast, bust of a woman, after an orignal marble bust, by Fransceco Laurana, Italy (Naples), 1472, cast in Germany (Berlin), ca. 1889
Physical Description
Plaster cast, portrait bust of a woman. The faint incised decoration of the dress, was, on the original, a richly gilded pattern. The hole at the breast may once have been covered by a metal brooch or pendant and the cartouche might have originally contained the sitter's name.
Dimensions
  • Height: 51cm
  • Width: 46cm
Gallery Label
Francesco Laurana produced a number of elegant busts of women. This is a cast of a sculpture attributed to him that was celebrated in the 19th century. It may be a portrait of Ippolita Maria Sforza, the consort of the King of Naples. The faint decoration seen here on the dress was richly gilded on the original bust, which was damaged during the Second World War.(2014)
Object history
Purchased from the Berlin Museum in 1889 for 15 marks.
Historical context
This cast is taken from one of nine female portrait busts ascribed to Laurana on the basis of their resemblance to a series of documented figures of the Virgin and Child in Sicily. Two of these busts - in the Frick Collection, New York, and in the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. - are closely related to this portrait, and appear to represent the same person. They have similar bases decorated with classicizing figures. The sitter has been tentatively identified as Ippolita Maria Sforza, the wife of King Alfonso II of Naples, although this identification is not based on any secure evidence. During a fire towards the end of the Second World War, the marble portrait head in Berlin was divided from the rest of the bust, including its decorative base. The shoulders and integral base are now in Moscow, while the head is in the Bode Museum, Berlin. Remains of extensive pigmentation survive on the marble, along with faint incised decoration of the dress, to form a richly gilded pattern. The cavity on the breast may once have been covered by a metal brooch or pendant, and the cartouche might have originally contained the sitter's name.



Subjects depicted
Summary
This cast is taken from one of nine female portrait busts ascribed to the Italian renaissance sculptor Francesco Laurana on the basis of their resemblance to a series of documented groups of the Virgin and Child by the artist. Two of those nine busts - in the Frick Collection, New York, and in the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. - are closely related to this portrait, and even appear to represent the same person. They have similar bases decorated with classicizing figures. Remains of extensive pigmentation survive on the marble, along with faint incised decoration of the dress, to form a richly gilded pattern. The cavity on the breast may once have been covered by a metal brooch or pendant, and the cartouche might have originally been inscribed with the sitter's name. The sitter has been tentatively identified as Ippolita Maria Sforza, the wife of King Alfonso II of Naples, although this identification is hypothetical.



During a fire towards the end of the Second World War, the marble portrait head in Berlin was divided from the rest of the bust, including its decorative base. The shoulders and integral base are now in Moscow, while the head is in the Bode Museum, Berlin. This plaster cast was made in the 1880s, before this extensive damage to the marble original.



Plaster casts were especially sought after during the 19th century, when reproductions of great works of sculpture and architecture were thought crucial for the training of artists. A separating substance was applied to the surface of the work to be reproduced, and a plaster mould made from that. The mould would then be used to make any number of additional plaster copies. These were often sold to artists, and later in the century to art colleges for study purposes.
Bibliographic Reference
Cormier, Brendan and Thom, Danielle, eds. A World of Fragile Parts, London, 2016, pp. 146-147.
Collection
Accession Number
REPRO.1889-94

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record createdMay 24, 2000
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