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St Stephen

  • Object:

    Copy of a wooden statue

  • Place of origin:

    Germany (Copy, made)
    Würzburg (Original, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1906 (made)
    ca. 1500-10 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Semmelmayr, Josef (caster)
    Riemenschneider, Tilman (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted plaster cast

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1906-3

  • Gallery location:

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

Like the nearby figure of St Barbara, the original wood figure from which this cast was made was carved by the workshop of the Renaissance sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider in Würzburg. St Stephen is known as the first Christian martyr. The rocks in his lap refer to his violent death by stoning. Riemenschneider’s early Renaissance sculptures were particularly admired in Britain at the time when the Museum acquired this cast.

Physical description

Plaster cast of a wooden statue depicting St Stephen in carved and painted wood, in the Mainfrankisches Museum, Würzburg.

Place of Origin

Germany (Copy, made)
Würzburg (Original, made)

Date

ca. 1906 (made)
ca. 1500-10 (made)

Artist/maker

Semmelmayr, Josef (caster)
Riemenschneider, Tilman (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques

Painted plaster cast

Dimensions

Height: 78 cm

Object history note

Cast of a wooden statue created in Germany about 1906 and purchased from Josef Semmelmayr in 1906 for £3 3s 6d. The cast is of St. Stephen, which was sculpted by the School of Tilman Riemenschneider in Würzburg about 1500-10. Riemenschneider’s early Renaissance sculptures were particularly admired in Britain at the time when the Museum acquired this cast.

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 wooden statue bought from Josef Semmelmayr in 1906, depicting St Stephen. The original was made by the School of Tilman Riemenschneider in Würzburg about 1500-10.

Labels and date

Cast of
School of Tilman Riemenschneider
St Stephen
About 1500–10

Like the nearby figure of St Barbara, the original wood figure from which this cast was made was carved by the workshop of the Renaissance sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider in Würzburg. St Stephen is known as the first Christian martyr. The rocks in his lap refer to his violent death by stoning. Riemenschneider’s early Renaissance sculptures were particularly admired in Britain at the time when the Museum acquired this cast.

Cast
About 1906
Painted plaster
Germany
Bought from Josef Semmelmayr,
Würzburg in 1906
Museum no. Repro.1906-3

Original
Carved and painted limewood
Würzburg
Mainfrankisches Museum,
Würzburg [04/07/2018]
Like the figure of St Barbara shown nearby, the original wood figure from which this cast is taken was carved by the workshop of Tilman Riemenschneider (1460-1531) in Würzburg. St Stephen, a deacon, was the first Christian martyr, who was stoned to death for blasphemy. He is shown seated in deacon’s robes, with the stones referring to his death.

Holly Trusted []

Materials

Plaster; Paint

Techniques

Cast; Painting

Subjects depicted

Saints; Figures (representations)

Categories

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

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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