First opened in 1873, the Cast Courts were purpose built to house one of the most comprehensive collections of casts of post-classical European sculpture. 24 metres in height, the two galleries house some of the V&A’s largest objects and are among the most popular in the Museum. Renovation has recently taken place on The Weston Cast Court (Gallery 46b), which re-opened to the public in November 2014. The Court has been named in recognition of The Garfield Weston Foundation’s longstanding and generous support of the V&A. With further support from The Henry Moore Foundation, Patricia Wengraf Ltd., The Salomon Oppenheimer Philanthropic Foundation, and Sam Fogg.
Gallery 46a: Cast Courts
Gallery 46a and 46b provide an introduction to the history of European sculpture through plaster casts of the most celebrated examples of the sculptor's art. Largely formed in the 19th century, these two large rooms also provide a unique illustration of High Victorian taste.
Gallery 46b: Cast Courts
Gallery 46b, The Weston Cast Court, features over 60 of the V&A’s finest 19th-century productions of important Italian Renaissance monuments. It includes the five metre high cast of Michelangelo’s David (c.1856), the set of electrotype doors cast from the Gates of Paradise at Florence Cathedral (c.1867) measuring over seven and a half meters in height, a plaster cast of a pulpit from Pisa Cathedral by Giovanni Pisano (c.1865), and the monumental cast of Jacopo della Quercia’s great arch from the Basilica of San Petronio, Bologna (1886).
The History of the Cast Courts
When the Architectural Courts - or Cast Courts as we now describe them - opened in October 1873, the builder compared the experience of seeing them for the first time with a first glimpse of Mont Blanc, creating one of those 'impressions that can scarcely be effaced'
David's fig leaf, perhaps by D. Brucciani & Co., about 1857
In 1857 a plaster cast of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ was presented by the Grand Duke of Tuscany to Queen Victoria, who immediately gave it to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A). This fig-leaf was cast soon afterwards, probably by D. Brucciani & Co., and hung on the ‘David’ to spare the blushes of visiting female dignitaries.
Video: Peter Sheppard Skærved: Music for the Cast Courts
On the 14 September 2012, violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved brought two composers, Nigel Clarke and David Gorton, with a virtuoso horn-player, Carly Lake, to the Cast Courts. They set music old and new, from North and South, in the dramatic context of this wonderful space and its unmatched collection.
Video: The V&A Cast Courts
Originally designed by General Henry Scott and first opened in 1873, the Cast Courts are among the most popular galleries in the V&A. Arranged as two double-height day-lit courts, they house some of the Museum's largest and most loved objects, such as the 5.5 metre high cast of Michelangelo's David and a plaster cast of Trajan's Column, displayed in two pieces which if put together would reach 35.6 metres high.
Video: Max Lamb: Inspired by the Cast Courts
This short film follows furniture designer Max Lamb as he wrestles with the challenge of creating a special piece of furniture commissioned to mark the launch of the London Design Festival. Filmed over the summer of 2010, the film observes Max as he designs and makes a piece whose final display setting will be HSBC Private Bank's building in St James's.
Designated the National Collection of Sculpture, this collection concentrates on Western European Sculpture from the 4th century to the end of the 19th century. Highlights of the collection include masterpieces from the Italian Renaissance, ivory carvings of all periods, Northern European wood and other sculpture, commemorative medals and plaster casts. The sculpture collection contains approximately 22,000 objects.
FuturePlan: Transforming the V&A
FuturePlan is an ambitious programme of development which is transforming the V&A. The best contemporary designers are creating exciting new galleries and visitor facilities, while revealing and restoring the beauty of the original building. In the past 10 years, over 70% of the museum’s public spaces have been transformed, improving access and allowing the collections to be more elegantly and intelligently displayed. By introducing bold new architectural interventions, FuturePlan aims to delight and to inspire visitors, and to continue the museum’s tradition of championing new talent.