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Copy of a capital

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (Copy, made)
    France (Copy, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1860 (made)
    ca. 1100 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted plaster cast

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1862-2680

  • Gallery location:

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

When the Museum acquired these casts in 1862, they were part of a group of copies said to have been made from the abbey of Moissac in southern France. The cloister at Moissac is renowned for the delicacy of its architecture and contains one of the most important collections of Romanesque sculpture in France. The moulds for the casts were probably made during the restoration works at the abbey supervised by the French architect and historian Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.

Physical description

Plaster cast of a capital depicting one of the capitals, in stone, from the Cloister of the Abbey of Moissac (Tarn-et-Garonne).

Place of Origin

Paris (Copy, made)
France (Copy, made)

Date

ca. 1860 (made)
ca. 1100 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Painted plaster cast

Object history note

Cast of a capital probably created in Paris, France in about 1860 and acquired by the museum in 1862 (further details of acquisition unrecorded). The cast depicts one of the capitals, in stone, from the Cloister of the Abbey of Moissac (Tarn-et-Garonne) which was sculpted by an unknown artist in France, about 1100.

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 capital probably made in Paris, France, about 1860 depicting one of the capitals from the Cloister of the Abbey of Moissac (Tarn-et-Garonne). The original was made by an unknown artist in France about 1100.

Labels and date

2. Casts of
Unknown artist
Capitals
About 1100

When the Museum acquired these casts in 1862, they were part of a group of copies said to have been made from the abbey of Moissac in southern France. The cloister at Moissac is renowned for the delicacy of its architecture and contains one of the most important collections of Romanesque sculpture in France. The moulds for the casts were probably made during the restoration works at the abbey supervised by the French architect and historian Eugène Viollet-le-Duc.

Casts
About 1860
Painted plaster
Probably Paris, France
Museum nos. Repro.1862-2678 to 2682

Originals
Limestone
France
Two are from the cloister of the Abbey of Moissac (Tarn-et-Garonne) [04/07/2018]

Materials

Plaster; Paint

Techniques

Casting; Painting

Subjects depicted

Capitals

Categories

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

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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