The V&A’s recently restored and renovated Cast Courts are the only public galleries in the museum to display the same collection of objects as when they originally opened in 1873. Collecting plaster cast reproductions and electrotypes of works of art was at its height around this time, and the South Kensington Museum, as the V&A was then named, assembled an impressive collection of casts of important European monuments in London, at a time when few could travel to see them in situ.
Featuring reproductions of significant works such as Michelangelo’s David and Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, the galleries were created to embody the museum’s mission as a place of art education where public tastes could be shaped.
In acknowledgement of the support of the N Sethia Foundation, the former Central Gallery has been renamed the Chitra Nirmal Sethia Gallery and features both exhibits and contextual material detailing the production methods of the casts.
First known as the Architecture Courts, the Cast Courts are the largest galleries in the V&A, and contain one of the few surviving collections of casts in the world, with many having since been dispersed or destroyed when the art form fell out of favour. The Chitra Nirmal Sethia Gallery provides the opportunity to reappraise it, denoting both the history and technology involved in the productions, but also their relevance to the methods of replication used in today’s digital age.
Photo credit: V&A Museum