Reviving the V&A’s Cast Courts

The V&A’s superlative Cast Courts are undergoing a timely programme of renovation, the first time in three decades. In these posts, the project team take you behind the scenes, keeping you updated on their progress and the discoveries and challenges in breathing new life into one of the V&A’s best-loved set of galleries.

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Cast of a roundel from the Madrasa of Sultan Hasan, Museum no.827-1884

A plaster cast from Cairo

Among the two-dimensional casts that will eventually be displayed in Gallery 46 – the corridor that runs between the two Cast Courts – is an interesting selection of architectural decoration from two major Islamic centres: the Alhambra in Granada, the palace built by the Nasrid rulers of Islamic Spain in the 14th century; and Cairo […]

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Update – Defining the Decorative Scheme

Continuing the process of revealing the ‘hidden gems’ of the Cast Courts, attention has recently turned towards understanding the original decorative scheme(s).  Tried and tested methods of paint sampling and analysis have been the principal tools for this work although it has also been possible to incorporate knowledge gained from contemporary reports from the 1870’s by […]

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Paintings Conservation – the treatment of Anton Raphael Mengs, Copy of Raphael’s School of Athens

Mengs’ copy of Raphael’s School of Athens was painted in 1755 as one of a series of exemplary works for the gallery at Northumberland House. It was damaged both by a fire there in 1868 and in the subsequent salvage operation. There is minute blistering of the paint surface in places particularly the upper right area […]

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The fountain in the Grottenhof of the Residenz in Munich

Contextualising the Casts

As an intern at the V&A my main task has been locating photographs of the original sculpture that has been cast and displayed in our magnificent Cast Courts. I have scoured the V&A, starting in the Sculpture section’s image bank and then moving on to the seemingly bottomless pit of the Prints and Drawing Study […]

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The trained eye of the sculpture conservator Sarah Healey

Conservation in progress

The practical work on this collection of objects is now progressing. This follows the initial assessments of the condition of each object. The conservation is split between: – a metal conservator, who looks at the electrotypes – an example is the great Baptistery doors known as the Gates of Paradise in gall. 46B, made of gilded copper: […]

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Storage Conversations

If you’ve recently been to the V&A and walked over the Gilbert Bayes Gallery of Sculpture which runs mid-height between the two Cast Courts, you will have seen that the Italian side has been cleared of the majority of its casts. This was done to both protect the objects from the renovation works and to […]

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Martin with the School of Athens

Tender Loving Care for a ‘well-behaved painting’

This week, I am introducing you to Martin Welsh, one of the technicians working on the Cast Court project and whose ‘magic’ operates in the beautiful frame-supports he builds to facilitate object moves and safe storage. Martin joined the V&A in November 2010, after spending three and a half years building exhibitions at the Imperial […]

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Cast Courts looking north c.1870

Revealing Some Hidden Gems

I joined the V&A just over a year ago and was thrilled to learn that I was going to be working on the Cast Courts project.  Their vast spaces and monumental reproductions of some of the worlds most well known pieces of sculpture and architecture have long been a source of fascination over the years […]

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Plaster cast of the Bruges Madonna by Michelangelo

From the Captain of a Dutch Corsair to a Victorian Art Referee

When I have a spare moment, I try and go to our Blythe road premises, to do some research on the Cast Courts in the V&A Archives. Ahead of my visits, my colleagues James Sutton and Nicholas Smith have helpfully been digging information about the building of the Cast Courts, the acquisition of the objects, […]

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Sculpture conservation shines a light on the plaster casts

We, the Sculpture studio in Conservation department, are really happy to contribute to the project blog and welcome this initiative taken by Melanie, the assistant curator to the project. For us in the studio the blog is an experiment and offers, we hope, some possibilities for elements of our work on the project to be […]

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