- Plaster cast
:"This article is on plaster copies made of sculptures and other objects. For the use of plaster casts in medicine, see
Orthopedic cast."A plaster cast is a copy made in plaster of another 3-dimensional form, usually a metal or stone sculpture (although the technique is also used to create copies of fossilised bones, or of fresh or fossilised footprints of living animals, dinosaurs or prehistoric humans, particularly in palaeontology- a track of dinosaur footprints made in this way can be seen outside the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, whilst a cast was also allegedly made by Paterson and Gimlin of the footprints of Bigfoot). It may also describe a finished original sculpture made out of plaster, though these are rarer.
Sometimes a blank block of plaster itself was carved to produce mock-ups or first drafts of sculptures (usually relief sculptures) that would ultimately be sculpted in stone. These are still described as plaster casts. Examples of these by
John Flaxmanmay be found in the central rotunda of the library at University College London, and elsewhere in the University's collections. [http://www.ucl.ac.uk/silva/museums/uclart/collections/flaxman-collection(UCL]
Plasteris applied to the original to create a mould or cast (that is, a negative impression) of the original. This mould is then removed and fresh plaster is poured into it, creating a copy in plaster of the original.
The practice of reproducing famous sculptures in plaster originally dates back to the sixteenth century when
Leone Leoniassembled 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.
Use of such casts was particularly prevalent among
classicists of the 18th and 19th centuries, and by 1800 there were extensive collections in Berlin, Paris, Vienna and elsewhere.By creating copies of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures held at various museums across Europe in this way, a reference collection of all the best and most representative sculptural types could be formed, at a fraction of the cost of purchasing original sculptures, which scholars could consult without necessarily having to travel abroad to see all the originals. These casts could also be used in experiments in polychromy(reconstructing paint layers found on sculptures), reconstruction (eg Adolf Furtwängler's reconstruction of the Lemnian Athenafrom pieces found in different places), and for filling holes in a museum's collections of actual sculpture (eg the British Museum sent casts of some of its Mesopotamian collection to the Louvre in return for a cast of the Louvre's Code of Hammurabi).
Other ancient cultures
The technique was also applied later that century to reliefs from
Ancient Egyptand friezes from Mesopotamia(examples of both of which may be seen on the North-East Staircase and in Room 52 of the British Museum), as well as to medieval and Renaissance sculptures (as may be seen in the Cast Courts at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which were a product of growing interest in medieval art at that time and the resulting desire to have a 'reference collection' of such art). In the early 19th century, for example, perhaps as an expression of national pride, casts were made of outstanding national monuments particularly in France and Germany.
As well as those locations mentioned above, classical cast collections may be seen at the Museum of Classical Archaeology at the
University of Cambridge, at the Ashmolean Museumin Oxford, and in the Royal Cast Collection in Copenhagen. (The British Museum also holds classical casts, but these are currently all in storage.)
* [http://www.plastercasts.org/programme.doc Conference on the use of plaster casts]
* [http://www.gipsen.dk/tekster/julius.htm Friends of the Royal Cast Collection, Copenhagen]
* [http://www.plastercastcollection.org/en/database.php?d=lire&id=10 Plaster cast collections database]
* [http://www.smk.dk/smk.nsf/docs/30dd7e6bd2076112c1256b76003187d8 Cast Collection, Copenhagen - homepage]
* [http://www.classics.cam.ac.uk/museum/ University of Cambridge: Museum of Classical Archaeology - Home]
* [http://www.beazley.ox.ac.uk/sculpture/collection/default.htm History of the Oxford cast collection]
* [http://www.fairfield.edu/art_plastercast.html Fairfield University Plaster Cast Collection]
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