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Copy of Part of a Choir Screen

  • Place of origin:

    Hildesheim (Copy, made)
    Germany (Original, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1873 (made)
    1194-97 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Küsthardt, Friedrich (caster)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted plaster cast

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1873-561

  • Gallery location:

    Cast Courts, The Ruddock Family Cast Court, Room 46A, case FS, shelf N

This is a cast of an object which itself was made from a form of plaster – stucco. A number of stucco choir-screens were erected inside churches in Saxony around 1200. The area was already known for the skill of its metalworkers, and it may be that a metal casting workshop produced the screen, as plaster moulds are integral to the process of metal casting. The screen depicts saints and the Virgin and Child alongside Bishop Bernward, the founder of the church.

Physical description

Plaster cast of part of a choir screen depicting showing figures of (from the left) St. Benedict, St. James, St. Peter, the Virgin and Child, St. Paul, St. John and Bishop Bernward, in the Church of St. Michael, Hildesheim.

Place of Origin

Hildesheim (Copy, made)
Germany (Original, made)

Date

ca. 1873 (made)
1194-97 (made)

Artist/maker

Küsthardt, Friedrich (caster)

Materials and Techniques

Painted plaster cast

Dimensions

Height: 320.5 cm, Length: 793 cm

Object history note

Plaster cast of part of a choir screen depicting saints and the Virgin and Child alongside Bishop Bernward, the founder of the church, which was made by Friedrich Küsthardt in Hildesheim about 1873, and purchased from F. Künsthardt in 1873 for £162 10s. The original was made from stucco by an unknown artist in Germany probably in 1194-97 for the west choir in the church of St Michael, Hildesheim.

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 part of a choir screen that depicts Saints and the Virgin and Child alongside Bishop Bernward made by Friedrich Küsthardt in Hildesheim about 1873. The original was probably made in 1194-97.

Labels and date

Cast of
Unknown artist
Part of a Choir-screen
Probably 1194–97

This is a cast of an object which itself was made from a form of plaster – stucco. A number of stucco choir-screens were erected inside churches in Saxony around 1200. The area was already known for the skill of its metalworkers, and it may be that a metal casting workshop produced the screen, as plaster moulds are integral to the process of metal casting. The screen depicts saints and the Virgin and Child alongside Bishop Bernward, the founder of the church.

Cast
Friedrich Küsthardt
About 1873
Painted plaster
Hildesheim, Germany
Museum no. Repro.1873-561

Original
Stucco
Germany
St Michael, Hildesheim
(in the west choir)
Conservation supported
by Idlewild Trust [21/06/2018]
In 1873, the Museum acquired a number of plaster casts of key sculptural decorations in the cathedral of Hildesheim, all produced by the Hildesheim sculptor Friedrich Küsthardt. Unlike most of the other objects in the Museum's plaster collection, this cast replicates an object which itself was made from a form of plaster: stucco. In the years around 1200, a number of stucco choir screens were erected inside churches in Saxony. Saxony was known for the skill of its metalworkers, and it may be that a workshop primarily engaged in casting was involved in the production of these furnishings. The original screen would have been brightly painted, although most of this is lost on the original and is not duplicated here.

Glyn Davies []

Materials

Plaster; Paint

Techniques

Casting; Painting

Subjects depicted

Figures (representations); Choir screens

Categories

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

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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