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Tomb of St Sebaldus

  • Object:

    Copy of a Tomb of St Sebaldus

  • Place of origin:

    Nuremberg (sculpted)
    Nuremberg (cast)

  • Date:

    1869 (made)
    1508-19 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Rotermundt, Jacob (caster)
    Vischer, Peter (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted plaster cast

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1869-14

  • Gallery location:

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

The German artist Peter Vischer the Elder made the original bronze tomb with the help of his five sons. The tomb was made to hold a silver reliquary shrine containing the remains of Nuremberg’s patron saint, Sebaldus. The spiky finials (on top), decorative architectural details and decoration of the tomb reflect earlier elaborate Gothic monuments of southern Germany. But the individual figures, including clambering putti, and scrolled ornament are Renaissance features that come from Italy.

Standing against one of the lower columns is a self-portrait of Vischer as a bearded workman wearing a leather apron and holding his tools.

The cast was produced in about 1869 by Jacob Rotermundt. It demonstrates his skill as a craftsman, as it would have required many small piece-moulds to faithfully reproduce the intricate details of the tomb. The copy was one of the first elaborate and large plaster casts that the Museum purchased.

Physical description

Plaster cast of tomb of St. Sebaldus with spiky finals on top, clambering putti, scrolled ornament, and standing against one of the lower columns is the original artist Vischer as a bearded workman wearing a leather apron and holding his tools.

Place of Origin

Nuremberg (sculpted)
Nuremberg (cast)

Date

1869 (made)
1508-19 (made)

Artist/maker

Rotermundt, Jacob (caster)
Vischer, Peter (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques

Painted plaster cast

Dimensions

Height: 442.5 cm, Width: 155 cm, Depth: 272 cm

Object history note

Copy of a tomb of St Sebaldus made in plaster by Jacob Rotermundt in Nuremberg, 1869 and purchased from Jacob Rotermundt in 1869 for £245. The original was cast in bronze by Peter Vischer the Elder with help from his five sons in Nuremberg in 1508-19.

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 tomb of St Sebaldus made by Jacob Rotermundt in 1869. The original was made by Peter Vischer the Elder in 1508-19.

Labels and date

Cast of
Peter Vischer the Elder (about 1455–1529)
Tomb of St Sebaldus
1508–19

The German artist Peter Vischer the Elder made the original bronze tomb with the help of his five sons. The tomb was made to hold a silver reliquary shrine containing the remains of Nuremberg’s patron saint, Sebaldus. The spiky finials (on top), decorative architectural details and decoration of the tomb reflect earlier elaborate Gothic monuments of southern Germany. But the individual figures, including clambering putti, and scrolled ornament are Renaissance features that come from Italy.

Standing against one of the lower columns is a self-portrait of Vischer as a bearded workman wearing a leather apron and holding his tools.

The cast was produced in about 1869 by Jacob Rotermundt. It demonstrates his skill as a craftsman, as it would have required many small piece-moulds to faithfully reproduce the intricate details of the tomb. The copy was one of the first elaborate and large plaster casts that the Museum purchased.

Cast
Jacob Rotermundt
1869
Painted plaster
Nuremberg, Germany
Museum no. Repro.1869-14

Original
Cast bronze
Nuremberg
Church of St Sebaldus, Nuremberg
Conservation supported by The Pilgrim Trust [21/06/2018]
This plaster cast of the bronze tomb of St Sebaldus in Nuremberg was produced by Jacob Rotermundt in Nuremberg in about 1869, and was acquired by the Museum shortly afterwards. The original canopied bronze tomb is a masterpiece by the great German artist Peter Vischer the Elder (c.1455-1529), who produced it with the assistance of his five sons. It was made between 1508 and 1519, and straddles the gothic and the renaissance in form and decorative detail. The bronze monument is housed in Nuremberg’s oldest church, dating from about 1215. The tomb was made to house the 14th-century silver reliquary shrine containing the remains of the city’s patron saint, Sebaldus. The spiky finials, decorative architectural details and the overall form of the tomb, with its crowded profusion of figures, look back to the earlier great monuments of South Germany. But the individual figures, including clambering putti and scrolled ornament, reflect the burgeoning renaissance style, emanating from Italy above all. The statuette of Peter Vischer himself, standing against one of the lower columns, is a self-portrait, depicting the artist as a corpulent bearded workman, wearing a leather apron, and holding his tools. It is a superb example of the artist’s imaginative yet realist style. Meanwhile mythical dragons, small animals, intertwined foliage and other carefully designed details add to the impression of a seemingly unpredictable vivacity of design.

The 19th-century plaster cast is a highly skilled and impressive work of art in itself, and would have necessitated numerous small piece-moulds so that the multifarious details could be faithfully reproduced. The tomb came to the Museum four years before the great Cast Courts opened in 1873, and was one of the first plasters to be purchased.

Holly Trusted []

Production Note

Completed in 1519

Materials

Plaster; Paint

Techniques

Casting; Painting

Subjects depicted

Tombs; Arches; Death

Categories

Ph_survey; Sculpture; Plaster Cast; Copies; Cast Courts

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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