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Copy of a Relief - Weepers from the tomb of John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall
  • Weepers from the tomb of John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall
    Ramsay, William
  • Enlarge image

Weepers from the tomb of John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall

  • Object:

    Copy of a Relief

  • Place of origin:

    London (Copy, made)
    London (Original, made)

  • Date:

    1850-1900 (made)
    ca. 1340 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Ramsay, William (designed)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plaster cast

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Architectural Association

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.A.1916-307

  • Gallery location:

    Cast Courts, The Ruddock Family Cast Court, Room 46A, case WW

King Edward III of England commissioned a white alabaster monument in Westminster Abbey to honour the death of his younger brother, Prince John of Eltham, the Earl of Cornwall. This copy was cast from the base of the tomb. The relief portrays three mourning figures, known as ‘weepers’. It was one of several reliefs decorating the base of the monument, each depicting a trio of royal mourners.

Physical description

Plaster cast of a relief depicting three mourning figures, known as 'weepers'. It is one of several reliefs depicting a trio of royal mourners from the tomb of John of Eltham, the Earl of Cornwall.

Place of Origin

London (Copy, made)
London (Original, made)

Date

1850-1900 (made)
ca. 1340 (made)

Artist/maker

Ramsay, William (designed)

Materials and Techniques

Plaster cast

Dimensions

Height: 550 cm, Length: 93.5 cm

Object history note

Cast of a relief of weepers created in plaster in London, 1850-1900, and given by the Architectural Association in 1916. The cast is from the tomb of Prince John of Eltham, the Earl of Cornwall which was designed by William Ramsay III in London about 1340.

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 a relief made in 1850-1900 depicting three 'weepers'. The original was designed by William Ramsay III and made about 1340.

Labels and date

1. Cast of
Unknown artist
Relief of Weepers
About 1340

King Edward III of England commissioned a white alabaster monument in Westminster Abbey to honour the death of his younger brother, Prince John of Eltham, the Earl of Cornwall. This copy was cast from the base of the tomb. The relief portrays three mourning figures, known as ‘weepers’. It was one of several reliefs decorating the base of the monument, each depicting a trio of royal mourners.

Cast
1850–1900
Plaster
London
Museum no. Repro.A.1916-307

Original
Designed by William Ramsay III
Alabaster
St Edmund’s chapel, Westminster
Abbey, London [04/07/2018]
There are two sorts of alabaster. Calcite alabaster is very hard and was used in ancient times. This object is made of gypsum alabaster which is a fine-grained, soft and smooth stone. Although at first glance it looks a little like marble, which it was intended to imitate, it was much easier to carve due to its softness, and alabaster objects were therefore significantly cheaper to produce. Marble does not originate in England, so it was imported if needed, whereas in the 15th century there were important alabaster quarries in Nottingham, York, Burton-on-Trent and London. England was a major centre for the production of objects such as this one. During period, they were exported in very large numbers to Europe where they survive, unlike many examples which remained in England and were destroyed or greatly damaged during the Reformation.

This plaster cast of Weepers, carved in alabaster, from the tomb of John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall (d. 1334) in Westminster Abbey.

shargroves []

Materials

Plaster

Techniques

Casting

Subjects depicted

Figures (representations); Mourning

Categories

Ph_survey; Sculpture; Architecture; Death; Plaster Cast; Copies; Cast Courts

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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