The Museum of Casts at Athens

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From his mortuary temple at Thebes Luxor, Egypt , ca.

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Cast of the original from the Capitoline Museum, Rome. Roman copy of a Greek bronze, possibly by Lysippos, marble, ca. Limestone stele from the necropolis at Golgoi, late 5th century BCE. Limestone stele found near Saqqara northeast Egypt , ca. Cast of the original in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Greek, marble, ca. Cast of the original in the Regional Archaeological Museum, Palermo. Cast of the original in the Vatican Museum, Rome. Roman copy of a Greek original, marble, ca. Cast of the original in the National Museum of Archaeology, Naples.

Roman copy of a bronze original found at Herculaneum, ca. With this agreement, the Victoria and Albert Museum came to acquire the large and diverse collection of casts that it has today. The Courts are architecturally dramatic: they are large and high. The West Court is topped by a roof of glass that admits sunlight which is supplemented by electric lights; it predominantly contains casts of Northern European and Spanish sculpture and Trajan's Column.

The East Court has a high ceiling and has casts of Italian monuments. The two Courts are divided by corridors on two levels; the mid-level corridor allows the Courts to be viewed from above. The West Court that includes Trajan's Column also has a vertiginously high walkway around it at a third level.

The walkway is contiguous with a space that is used to store objects, mostly casts, that are not on public display; the walkway and storage area are not open to the public. It is said that the proportions of the West Court were informed by the need to display Trajan's column and the imposing Portico de la Gloria. When the cast courts first opened, they included displays of large scale architectural model and many casts of architectural details, hence the original name Architectural Courts.

When the courts first opened to the public they attracted much attention although the initial press reaction was mixed. The Art Journal , while generally favourable, was particularly critical of the inclusion of Trajan's Column which had the 'effect of crowding out of sight those casts of more sensible proportions' — a criticism that seems justified. Other museums also received casts, but chose to display the frieze in an unrolled manner and presented at eye level, as can now be seen at the Museum of Roman Civilization and National Museum of Romanian History.

The Museum

In the s, discussions within the museum focused on the lack of space for display. It was suggested that the cast collection be moved to The Crystal Palace where another large collection of casts was also housed. The proposed move was rejected by the then director, Eric Maclagan which was fortunate because in Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire. The full height of Trajan's Column could not possibly be accommodated and the column is divided into two roughly equal parts.

The original column in Rome is some 30m high and includes an internal spiral staircase which leads to a platform at the top.

Cast Courts (Victoria and Albert Museum)

The cast is of the huge pedestal and the entire column, but excludes the viewing platform. The original statue on the top was lost in antiquity.

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The pedestal is covered in illustrations of booty from the Dacian Wars and the column is covered in a detailed frieze illustrating the conquest of Dacia by the Roman emperor Trajan. The frieze spirals around the column and describes in narrative form two wars against Dacia, the first AD — is illustrated in the lower portion of the column, and the second AD — in the upper portion. The dividing point on the column is marked by a personification of Victory writing on a shield and this is approximately the point at which the cast of the column is divided.

The column was cast in many small parts and these parts were reconstituted on brick chimney-like structures built especially for the purpose.

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Just as on the original there is a door on the cast of the pedestal that affords access to the interior, but within the cast there is nothing to be seen but the white painted interior of the brick chimney. The upper portion is similarly hollow, but there is no means of access.


In Rome the frieze is extremely difficult to see. The viewing conditions in the museum are also less than optimal. Consequently, the only part of the frieze that can be examined closely by the public is the bottom of the upper portion. The mid-level corridor does afford an alternative view albeit at a distance and only from one side. The upper-level walkway looks down on the column and does give views all round, but at a significant distance and this is not open to the public. The original dates from the 12th century and is by the Master Mateo.

In , Robinson had visited Santiago de Compostela and on seeing the cathedral urged for a cast of the doorway to be made. This was prior to the construction of the Cast Courts and so allowed for the design to accommodate this vast artefact. The casting of this immense structure required an arduous sea voyage and protracted, delicate negotiations with the ecclesiastical authorities.

At the opening of the Cast Courts, the cast of the Portico de la Gloria was critically acclaimed and was applauded as a "glory to the museum". There is a painted copy of Raphael 's School of Athens over 4 metres by 8 metres in size, dated by Anton Raphael Mengs on display in the eastern Cast Court.

Online Cast Exhibition - Slater Memorial Museum

The plaster cast of a pulpit was constructed after the marble original which once stood in the Cathedral of Pisa. The pulpit has inscriptions running round the frieze and the base that make it clear that the sculptor was Giovanni Pisano and that the work was completed by Reliefs show scenes from the life of Christ and the Last Judgment. A central support comprises images of the three Virtues over a base depicting the Liberal Arts.

The two supports nearest the front of the pulpit depict Christ over the Four Evangelists and Ecclesia over the four Cardinal Virtues. The original pulpit was dismantled in following a fire in the cathedral. Interest in the original appearance of the pulpit was re-awakened in the nineteenth century.


Pisan sculptor Giovanni Fontana worked on a reconstruction carved from wood and in a group of British bronze sculptors produced their own reconstruction. The two reconstructions differed in detail. This cast seems to be from this reconstruction. Another copy of this cast was shown in the Exposition Universelle in Paris, in The present pulpit in the Cathedral in Pisa is a reconstruction by Peleo Baccithat assembled in The reconstruction incorporates most of the fragments from the original although some are dispersed in museums around the world.