Electroformed Reproductions at the Met

Interesting feature up at the Met’s website … here’s a tease:

 The “Mask of Agamemnon” is one of the most famous gold artifacts from the Greek Bronze Age. Found at Mycenae in 1876 by the distinguished archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann, it was one of several gold funeral masks found laid over the faces of the dead buried in the shaft graves of a royal cemetery. The most detailed and stylistically distinct mask came to be known as the Mask of Agamemnon, named after the famous king of ancient Mycenae whose triumphs and tribulations are celebrated in Homer’s epic poems and in the tragic plays of Euripides. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s replica of this mask molded by Emile Gilliéron père (manufactured and sold by the Würtemberg Electroplate Company) is an example of an electroformed reproduction, also commonly known as an electrotype—or by the historic term, “galvanoplastic”—reproduction.

Electrotype technique was developed in the nineteenth century and was used to reproduce many different kinds of historic metalworks. It became an important means of disseminating information about historic cultures throughout the world in a time before readily accessible color images and widespread travel. An electrotype reproduction was thought of as a precise replica, even though the method of manufacture and the materials were not the same as those of the original artwork. In A Brief Account of E. Gilliéron’s Beautiful Copies of Mycenaean Antiquities in Galvano-plastic, the sales catalogue for the replicas, they were described as “exact imitations of the objects in Galvano-Plastic, in which the forms, no less than the brilliancy and colours of the metals, are faithfully reproduced.” Gisela M. A. Richter—the eminent Metropolitan Museum curator who was instrumental in the acquisition of many of these reproductions—wrote that the copies were “of sufficient accuracy to give us a vivid idea of the originals.” (more follows)

… the article goes on to describe the process … definitely worth a read.

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