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Copy of a Tabernacle

  • Place of origin:

    Brussels (Original

    (probably), made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1876 (made)
    ca. 1552 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Floris, Cornelis II (sculptor)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted plaster cast

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1876-104

  • Gallery location:

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

A tabernacle houses the Host, or sanctified bread, used in Mass. The imposing original stone tabernacle from which this cast was made measures over 18 metres high. It was commissioned for the Church of St Leonard at Zoutleeuw (now known as Léau) in Belgium, where it still stands today. The maker, Cornelis Floris II, worked in a progressive style that fundamentally influenced 16th-century Northern European sculpture and architecture.

The cast itself is a highly skilled production because of the elaborate nature of the carving. But the name of its maker is not known. We do know, however, that it was produced in Belgium, and presented to the Museum by the Belgian government in 1876 as part of the agreement brokered by this Museum’s first director, Henry Cole. The convention formalised an agreement, ‘mutually to assist the museums of Europe in procuring casts and copies of national objects for the promotion of art’.

Physical description

Plaster cast of a tabernacle in the Church of St Leonard at Zoutleeuw.

Place of Origin

Brussels (Original

(probably), made)

Date

ca. 1876 (made)
ca. 1552 (made)

Artist/maker

Floris, Cornelis II (sculptor)

Materials and Techniques

Painted plaster cast

Dimensions

Height: 18.3 m, Width: 213.5 cm base

Object history note

Cast of a tabernacle made in 1876 and aquired in exchange with the Belgian Royal Commission for Promoting Reproductions of Works of Art. The original was made in stone by Cornelis Floris II probably in Brussels about 1552 and is in the Church of St Leonard at Zoutleeuw, Belgium.

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 tabernacle from the Church of St Leonard at Zoutleeuw made in 1876. The original was probably made in Brussels by Cornelis Floris II in about 1552.

Labels and date

Cast of
Cornelis Floris II (1514–75)
Tabernacle
About 1552

A tabernacle houses the Host, or sanctified bread, used in Mass. The imposing original stone tabernacle from which this cast was made measures over 18 metres high. It was commissioned for the Church of St Leonard at Zoutleeuw (now known as Léau) in Belgium, where it still stands today. The maker, Cornelis Floris II, worked in a progressive style that fundamentally influenced 16th-century Northern European sculpture and architecture.

The cast itself is a highly skilled production because of the elaborate nature of the carving. But the name of its maker is not known. We do know, however, that it was produced in Belgium, and presented to the Museum by the Belgian government in 1876 as part of the agreement brokered by this Museum’s first director, Henry Cole. The convention formalised an agreement, ‘mutually to assist the museums of Europe in procuring casts and copies of national objects for the promotion of art’.

Cast
1876
Painted plaster
Acquired in exchange with the Belgian Royal Commission for Promoting Reproductions of Works of Art
Museum no. Repro.1876-104

Original
Carved stone
Probably Brussels
Church of St Leonard at Zoutleeuw, Belgium [21/06/2018]
This copy of a Flemish tabernacle is one of the most important objects in the V&A’s great cast collection. Acquired by the Museum in 1876, this imposing plaster monument is a towering presence in the gallery, measuring 18 metres in height. The original nine-level stone tabernacle, made from white Avesne stone, a type of chalk, was commissioned in 1552 for the Church of St Leonard at Zoutleeuw near Brussels, where it still stands today. Its maker, Cornelius Floris II (1514-1575), was one of the most important sculptors of the period. His progressive style was a fundamental influence on 16th-century Northern European sculpture and architecture. This exquisite piece of carving, illustrating scenes from the Old and New Testaments, exemplifies an intricate late gothic/early renaissance sculpture on a truly magnificent scale.

The name of the maker of the plaster cast, itself a virtuoso production, is unrecorded. However it is known to have been produced in Belgium, and was presented to the Museum by the Belgian government in 1876, as part of the international exchange of casts agreed in Paris in 1867.

Holly Trusted []

Production Note

Flemish

Materials

Plaster; Paint

Techniques

Casting; Painting

Categories

Ph_survey; Architecture; Sculpture; Christianity; Religion; Photographs; History of the V&A; Photographs of plaster casts; Plaster Cast; Copies; Cast Courts

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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