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Eleanor of Aquitaine

  • Object:

    Copy of an Effigy

  • Place of origin:

    France (sculpted)

  • Date:

    1852-1854 (made)
    ca. 1204-10 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Painted plaster cast

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Trustees of the Crystal Palace

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.A.1938-2

  • Gallery location:

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

Eleanor, Queen to King Henry II of England, spent her last years at Fontevrault Abbey and was buried there next to her husband in 1204. Her effigy is one of a number of those of kings and queens from the Plantagenet dynasty at the abbey. This cast was probably made from a mould created in France and transported to Britain. It mimics the pigmentation of the original stone.

Physical description

Plaster cast, with restored pigmentation, of the Effigy of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of Henry II of England.

Place of Origin

France (sculpted)

Date

1852-1854 (made)
ca. 1204-10 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Painted plaster cast

Dimensions

Length: 235.3 cm, Weight: 301 kg Weight without plinth, Height: 69.4 cm, Width: 75.1 cm

Object history note

Copy of an effigy of Eleanor of Aquiatine made in plaster, probably made in London in 1852-54 and given by the Trustees of the Crystal Palace in 1938. The original was made in France in about 1204-10 and is from the Fontevrault Abbey, Anjou.

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 an effigy of Eleanor of Aquataine probably made in London in 1852-54. The original was made in France about 1204-10.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Droth, Martina, Edwards, Jason, and Hatt, Michael, Sculpture Victorious: Art in an Age of Invention, 1837-1901, exh. cat., YUP, New Haven and London, 2015, p. 165-166

Labels and date

Cast of
Unknown artist
Effigy of Eleanor of Aquitaine
About 1204–10

Eleanor, Queen to King Henry II of England, spent her last years at Fontevrault Abbey and was buried there next to her husband in 1204. Her effigy is one of a number of those of kings and queens from the Plantagenet dynasty at the abbey. This cast was probably made from a mould created in France and transported to Britain. It mimics the pigmentation of the original stone.

Cast
1852–54
Painted plaster
Probably London
Given by the Trustees of the Crystal Palace in 1938
Museum no. Repro.A.1938-2

Original
Polychrome stone
France
Fontevrault Abbey, Anjou [21/06/2018]

Materials

Plaster; Paint

Techniques

Painting; Casting

Subjects depicted

Tombs; Sepulchral monuments

Categories

Sculpture; Royalty; Plaster Cast; Copies; Cast Courts

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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