Plaster cast of Domenico Brucciani's Portico de la Gloria
Santiago de Compostella
Museum no. REPRO.1866-50
This magnificent cast from the pilgrimage destination of Santiago de Compostela possesses two sorts of beauty. First, as a representation of heaven, the original is one of the greatest glories of Christian art. Second, as a bravura replica, the cast shows the bewildering confidence of the Victorians and their moral certainty that beauty could be captured by technology. The Portico was cast on site by Domenico Brucciani in 1866, arriving in the V&A in 1873. Later Brucciani went into business with the Museum, selling plaster casts to art schools in a pioneering campaign of mass-producing beautiful objects for the purposes of inspiration. Meanwhile, Master Mateo's original of 1188 remains in Galicia as the supreme artistic achievement of the pilgrimage style. But this Victorian copy, equally magnificent in ambition and execution, is an early demonstration of a modernist principle: that beauty must be reproduced.
Stephen Bayley, Guest Curator