“If you want to be original, be ready to be copied.”

One of the Cast Court rooms - the cast of Michelangelo's David is on the right side.
One of the Cast Court rooms – the cast of Michelangelo’s David is on the right side.

One of the most famous collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum are the Cast Courts. These are copies, usually in plaster, of famous works from around the world. It feels a little like wandering around a Victorian’s attic, but then you get distracted by how amazing each piece is. The majority of the casts were made in the 19th century, and the practice declined in the early 20th century. All of the casts on display at the museum are housed in two huge rooms, and it is pretty fascinating to get up close to replicas of such famous works as Michelangelo’s David, his Moses or Trajan’s Column.

View of one of the Cast Court rooms from the atrium
View of one of the Cast Court rooms from the atrium

I thought the grave effigies were particularly interesting as it is very unlikely I will make it to Fontevrault Abbey in the near future. I was heartily disappointed that Eleanor of Aquitaine’s effigy was not on display here. You have Henry II, Richard I, and even John I’s wife – why not Eleanor of Aquitaine? She was queen of both France and England, the only woman to hold both honors – surely that rates higher than her husband and sons, who were only kings of England. Maybe a visit to Fontevrault is in order after all.

Title quote: Coco Chanel

Michelangelo's Moses
Michelangelo’s Moses
Cast of The Gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Baptistry of the Florence Cathedral.
Cast of The Gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti for the Baptistry of the Florence Cathedral.
A detail of of the cast of Ghiberti's Baptistry doors
A detail of of the cast of Ghiberti’s Baptistry doors
View of one of the Cast Court rooms from the atrium
View of one of the Cast Court rooms from the atrium
Plantagenets in repose: Henry II, Richard I, and Isabelle d'Angouleme
Plantagenets in repose: Henry II, Richard I, and Isabelle d’Angouleme
More views of the Cast Court room - Trajan's Column is the central attraction
More views of the Cast Court room – Trajan’s Column is the central attraction
Cast of an oak altarpiece in Schleswig Cathedral in Germany
Cast of an oak altarpiece in Schleswig Cathedral in Germany
Cast of bronze lion from Cathedral Square in Brunswick, Germany, about 1166.
Cast of bronze lion from Cathedral Square in Brunswick, Germany, about 1166.
More views of the Cast Court room - Trajan's Column is the central attraction - the cast of the Celtic Cross in the foreground is from Ireland - the original dates to 900.
More views of the Cast Court room – Trajan’s Column is the central attraction – the cast of the Celtic Cross in the foreground is from Ireland – the original dates to 900.
Detail of Trajan's Column
Detail of Trajan’s Column
More views of the other Cast Court room
More views of the other Cast Court room

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