Philobiblon: The magic of the copy

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The magic of the copy

Imagine that you are told that the whole of London is about to be destroyed. The British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, all of the treasures about to be swept away. You've got a magic wand and can save just one room. Which would you choose?

Oddly enough, I think I'd chose Gallery 46A at the V&A - the Cast Court - which contains not one original object, but crams into one room an entire art history of almost two millenniums of Europe in a mad, exotic menagerie. There are tombs, fonts, doors, panels, freestanding statues and crosses, portrait busts, monumental memorials. The originals were in bronze, in stone, in wood, but here they are in plaster - that fragile but infinitely malleable magic dough - carefully copied and coloured, preserving every crack and grain, every indentation left by weary buttocks over the ages; not quite real but not quite fake. READ MORE


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