Plaster cast

1872-1879 (made)

1043:2-1884 SCP

Bottom half of the plaster cast of a window grille with arabesque pattern from the madrasa at Qal'at al-Kabsh, Cairo, built by Sultan Qa’itbay in 1475-6.

Plaster cast made from locally available Egyptian building plaster, which has a pinkish tone. The surface has been patinated with a grey pigment and where this is thin, the pink colour of the material is showing through.

Plaster cast of a stone window grille with arabesque pattern, which apparently comes from the madrasa at Qal'at al-Kabsh, Cairo, built by Sultan Qa’itbay in 1475-6. Plaster casts from a variety of historic monuments across Cairo were made to decorate the ‘maison arabe’ of the French aristocrat, the Comte Gaston de St Maurice (1831-1905), which was built for him between 1872 and 1879. The most popular ornament seems to have come from the buildings constructed during the reign of Sultan Qa’itbay (r.1468-96), however the impressive Mosque-Madrasa complex of Sultan Hasan was the next most represented building among St Maurice's cast collection. St Maurice lived in Cairo for twenty years, serving as equerry to the Khedive (Ottoman governor) of Egypt. During that period, he accumulated a large collection of historic objects from Islamic Egypt, dating especially from the 14th-16th centuries but also including some 19th-century objects. The V&A acquired about 200 objects from St Maurice collection in 1884.

Registered description: Plaster cast. Stone grille from the Kal'at el-Kebsh at Cairo. The original, Saracenic. Bought from the collection of Gaston de St Maurice (1831-1905). Plaster casts numbered 1020-1884 to 1046-1884 were bought for a total of £60. According to the register, this was written off (destroyed) in 1934. See RP/33/2518. The V&A holds approximately 200 objects from the collection of the Comte Gaston de St Maurice (1831-1905). St Maurice was a French aristocrat working in Cairo for some 20 years as equerry to the Khedive (Ottoman governor) of Egypt. During that period, St Maurice accumulated a large collection of historic objects from Islamic Egypt, dating especially from the 14th-16th centuries but also including some 19th-century objects. His tastes ranged widely and his collection included works of art from Syria, Iran, India, East Asia, as well as Europe. These objects were installed, some of them as furnishings, in the maison arabe built for him between 1872 and 1879 by the French architect Ambroise Baudry (1838-1906), who designed several houses for prominent French ex-patriates in Egypt. Part of the decoration of St Maurice’s house included plaster casts taken from a variety of historic buildings across Cairo, especially those built during the reign of Sultan Qa’itbay (r.1468-96). The Mosque-Madrasa complex of Sultan Hasan was the other major building represented in this plaster cast collection. St Maurice exhibited his collection at the 1878 Paris Exposition, where it was seen and its quality commented on by curators from the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A). After the exhibition, St Maurice’s collection remained in Paris, on deposit in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Due to the increasing political instability in Egypt, culminating with the British occupation (in 1882), St Maurice tried to sell his collection to the South Kensington Museum. The price was considered too high, but part of the collection was received on loan in 1883, the remainder staying in Paris at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Eventually in 1884, the loaned objects from St Maurice were bought by South Kensington. Stanley Lane- Poole (1854-1931), Arabist and external advisor to South Kensington on ‘Saracenic art’, considered this collection to be “of the greatest value and rarity”.

Location: In Storage

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