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Copy of an Arch

Copy of an Arch

  • Place of origin:

    Madrid (city) (Copy, made)
    Toledo (Original, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1871 (made)
    1250-1300 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Trilles y Badenes, José (Sr) (caster)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plaster cast with applied ceramic tiles at the base of the column

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1871:1-60

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The walls and pillars of Santa María la Blanca reflect the interplay of three different cultures: Christian, Jewish and Islamic. The church was founded as Toledo’s main synagogue, built by the city’s flourishing Jewish population during the culturally tolerant reign of the Christian king, Alfonso X (1252–84). Although Muslim rule in Toledo had ceased in 1085, many Islamic artistic traditions remained popular. The synagogue demonstrates this with horseshoe arches, widely used in the Islamic architecture of Spain, and new materials, such as plaster, introduced by the Muslim Almohad rulers of southern Spain and North Africa.

Juan Facundo Riaño helped the Museum acquire this cast. A Spanish academic, he was a key figure in the production and collection of plaster casts in 19th century Spain. Riaño was also a close colleague of Henry Cole, the Museum’s first director, and advised him about objects in Spain that might be photographed or cast so that their reproductions would be made available for visitors in London to appreciate.

Physical description

Plaster cast of an arch from the interior of Santa Maria Blanca synagogue. The plaster cast also has ceramic tiles applied at the base of the column.

Place of Origin

Madrid (city) (Copy, made)
Toledo (Original, made)

Date

ca. 1871 (made)
1250-1300 (made)

Artist/maker

Trilles y Badenes, José (Sr) (caster)

Materials and Techniques

Plaster cast with applied ceramic tiles at the base of the column

Dimensions

Height: 12 m, Width: 4.3 m

Object history note

Cast of an arch from the interior of Santa Maria la Blanca synagogue, made in plaster and with ceramic tiles by José de Trilles y Badenes about 1871 and purchased from Juan F. Riaño in 1871 for £147. The original arch was sculpted by an unknown artist in Toledo, Spain in 1250-1300.

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 an arch by José de Trilles y Badenes about 1971 depicting the arch from the interior of Santa Maria la Blanca synagogue. The original was sculpted in 1250-1300.

Labels and date

1. Cast of
Unknown artist
Arch from the Interior of Santa María la Blanca,
Toledo
1250–1300

The walls and pillars of Santa María la Blanca reflect the interplay of three different cultures: Christian, Jewish and Islamic. The church was founded as Toledo’s main synagogue, built by the city’s flourishing Jewish population during the culturally tolerant reign of the Christian king, Alfonso X (1252–84). Although Muslim rule in Toledo had ceased in 1085, many Islamic artistic traditions remained popular. The synagogue demonstrates this with horseshoe arches, widely used in the Islamic architecture of Spain, and new materials, such as plaster, introduced by the Muslim Almohad rulers of southern Spain and North Africa.

Juan Facundo Riaño helped the Museum acquire this cast. A Spanish academic, he was a key figure in the production and collection of plaster casts in 19th century Spain. Riaño was also a close colleague of Henry Cole, the Museum’s first director, and advised him about objects in Spain that might be photographed or cast so that their reproductions would be made available for visitors in London to appreciate.

Cast
José de Trilles y Badenes
About 1871
Plaster with applied ceramic tiles at the base of column
Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, Madrid
Museum no. Repro.1871-60

Original
Stone, plaster and ceramic tiles
Santa María la Blanca,
Toledo, Spain [04/07/2018]
This is a cast of part of the façade of a synagogue in Toledo, built in 1250-75, but consecrated as the church of Santa María la Blanca in the 15th century. The cast was acquired by the Museum through Juan Facundo Riaño (1829-1901) in 1871. Riaño, the son-in-law of the London-based Arabist, Pascual de Gayangos, was professor of Arabic at University of Granada and founder of School of Industrial Arts in Toledo and the Museum of Artistic Reproductions in Madrid in 1878. He advised the Museum on a whole range of Spanish acquisitions from the 1870s onwards.

The plaster cast was produced by Senor José de Trilles Badenes in Toledo for £147, along with a cast of the cloister of San Juan de los Reyes; Trilles was then working on the restoration of Santa María la Blanca. The design of horseshoe arches with blind arcading above is typical of Toledan parish churches, and loosely reminiscent of the Great Mosque of Damascus; it may reflect Toledo’s own Friday mosque, which had been destroyed in the 13th century. The cast is listed in a descriptive catalogue of the Cast Courts (then known as the Architectural Courts), by J.H. Pollen, published in 1874, where it appears in the chapter entitled “Moorish architecture in Spain’. In fact the architecture is not 'Moorish' (as it was then termed), or Arabic, and yet at that date there seemed to be no category of Jewish art. Art appreciation in Britain in the 19th century of this type of architecture in Spain focused rather on 'Moorish' (Moslem) art, as seen in the Alhambra.

Holly Trusted []

Materials

Plaster; Ceramic

Techniques

Casting; Tiling

Categories

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

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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