Reproduction of a Sarmatian cup with animal handle
Not on view
Electrotyping is a chemical process used historically to make high quality reproductions of works of art. During the Victorian era, one of the main producers was Elkington & Co. of Birmingham. They were licensed by the South Kensington Museum of London (now the Victoria & Albert Museum) to produce replicas of objects from royal treasuries and museums across Europe. The electrotypes approved by the Department of Science and Art, a British governmental agency, carry Messrs. Elkington’s mark in the form of an official stamp in metal.
This modern electrotype is a copy of a gold cup in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. The original was found in 1864 in the Khokhlach kurgan (burial mound) in the vicinity of Novocherkassk, one of the largest cities of the Don region. It was part of a group of precious objects – a crown, collars, ornaments, flacons or perfume-boxes – known as the “Treasure of Novocherkassk” and thought to be the burial of an elite Sarmatian woman from the first century A.D. Sarmatian objects are decorated with animal imagery comparable to the earlier Scythian “animal style” and frequently enhanced with colored inlays. The handle is in the shape of an elk whose eyes, back muscles, shoulder blades, and hips were originally inlaid with turquoise, coral and glass.
In the nineteenth century, many museums collected copies of ancient and historical works of art with the aim of presenting outstanding works to a broader public and to serve as inspiration for artists and manufacturers. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, founded in 1870, began to acquire electrotypes in its first decade. In 1883, Henry Marquand, a collector and early patron of the Museum, funded a large purchase from Elkington & Co. of nearly three hundred pieces. Today, these works are part of many departments in the Museum and along with plaster casts reflect the history of collecting and the role of the museum as a locus for the teaching of art history.