Weepers from the tomb of John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Cast Courts, The Ruddock Family Cast Court, Room 46A

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

Copy of a Relief
1850-1900 (made), ca. 1340 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Plaster cast
Brief Description
Plaster cast of a relief made in 1850-1900 depicting three 'weepers'. The original was designed by William Ramsay III and made about 1340.
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.
Dimensions
  • Height: 550cm
  • Length: 93.5cm
Production typeCopy
Gallery Label
  • 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
Credit line
Given by the Architectural Association
Object history
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
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.
Subjects depicted
Summary
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.
Collection
Accession Number
REPRO.A.1916-307

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record createdJune 27, 2000
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