Page 90 - Montecito Journal Glossy Edition Winter Spring 2012/13

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While we in the twenty-first century have witnessed art auction prices
and wars of authenticity that would support von Bode’s view, we have
also mourned the loss of artistic treasures, cultural patrimony, and the
destruction of entire cities that make von Bode’s high-minded opinion
seem a snobbish indulgence.
Unfortunately, von Bode’s view had become the norm among art
historians and curators by the 1920s, with a corresponding wane of
interest in the creation and collecting of plaster casts. The traditional
Beaux Arts education, wherein art and architecture students were
encouraged to study and copy the masterworks of yesteryear in
order to obtain a solid foundation of knowledge and understanding,
were rejected in favor of twentieth century ideals of modernism and
Fashion has come full circle yet again, and today the Cast Courts
are revered not only for their sheer impact of scale, but for their dramatic
illustration of High Victorian taste. As when originally unveiled,
they provide a way for those who cannot afford “The Grand Tour” of
international travel to experience first-hand the treasures from other
countries in a three-dimensional format, so much more revealing
than two-dimensional reproductions in books or photographs. Most
importantly, these casts have become an accurate record of the original
appearance of monuments that have suffered the effects of time – whether
through erosion caused by weather, pollutants, imprudent restoration
efforts, or outright destruction.
For the last couple of years, the V & A’s Cast Courts have been
undergoing extensive refurbishments, led by the London firm of Julian
Harrap Architects. Over 250 paint samples have been taken from the
courts, and have been used to guide the restoration of the original wall
colors and decoration.
No doubt the V&A’s newly spiffed Cast Courts will awe many
future generations of London residents and visitors. Not only by
the range of art and architecture samples they contain, but also by
the foresight and audacity of the people who collected them – those
surprising Victorians.
Detail of the cast from Santiago de Compostela
Cathedral’s “Portico de la Gloria,” completed by sculptor
Master Mateo in 1188. Above the portico, panels known
as “strapwork” decorate the Cast Courts, recently restored
to their original Victorian colors.
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