The Cast Courts
(originally called the Architectural Courts) of the Victoria and Albert Museum
in London, England, comprise two large halls. Unusually for a museum, the Cast Courts house a collection not of originals, but copies. Here are to be found reproductions of some of the most famous sculptures in the world. Most of the copies were made in the 19th century and in many cases they have better resisted the ravages of time, 20th-century pollution
and over-zealous conservation
than the originals. In a few cases, such as the late 15th century Lübeck
relief of Christ washing the Apostles' feet, the original has been destroyed and the cast is unique record of a lost work.
The practice of reproducing famous sculptures
dates back to the sixteenth century when Leone Leoni
assembled a collection of casts in Milan, he collected: "as many of the most celebrated works... carved and cast, antique and modern as he was able to obtain anywhere". Such private collections, however, remained modest and uncommon until the 18th century. By 1800 there were extensive collections in Berlin, Paris, Vienna and elsewhere.
Early in the 19th century there was growing interest in medieval art, and, perhaps as an expression of national pride, casts were made of outstanding... Read More