February 24th, 2011

Fishy Circumstances

Cast in Plaster

Plaster Cast Court at the V&A

After lunch with our mutual friend daisho, 4ll4n0 and I went off to the V&A, which he had not previously seen. I took him (after the Chihuly) to see my favorite part of the V&A, the plaster cast courts.

I love them so much because it's a kind of study and tourism which just isn't done anymore, not in quite that way. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, antiquaries traveled through Europe, making plaster casts directly from major works of sculpture and architecture and using those as molds to make plaster reproductions of the originals. Who needs the expense of a Grand Tour when one can go to the plaster cast courts and see the eastern façade of Chartres cathedral, Michaelangelo's David, eighth-century Scandinavian crosses, and the Trajan Column all in ten minutes?

After that we went through the Medieval and Renaissance galleries, eighteenth-century cabinetry, modern theater design, Japan (complete with an actual daisho), and a history of jewelry, before heading off to the BSFA, where the guest was so well-spoken and forthcoming, he practically interviewed himself.

On the tube, on the way home, I encountered the plaster cast courts again in the form of "this huge, ivory-white carved column of coherent light in the middle of the floor".
'What is that?'
'Trajan's column,' he said, without looking round. 'Scanned from the plaster cast in the V&A. Amazing, isn't it.'
(Gwyneth Jones, Bold as Love, 282)

Over at Torque Control, Niall is discussing Bold as Love this week. The first of the posts is here. No plaster casts. (Yet.)