Galerie des moulages
The collections of the Casts Gallery are the result of more than a century of activity on the part of the Commission of Historical Monuments, founded in 1837 to ensure the preservation of the French architecture heritage. They reflect the diversity of avenues of research of the fathers of medieval archaeology and the first defender of the French architectural heritage.
The thousands of full-size plaster casts in the gallery were collected over the last 130 years. They originate from Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s Museum of Comparative Sculpture, opened in 1882 in the Palais du Trocadéro, and which, after the Cluny Museum (1843), contributed to enhancing public appreciation of medieval architecture and sculpture at a time when the art of Gothic cathedrals was still disregarded by the Académie des Beaux-Arts.
The list of works to be cast as a priority was essentially drawn from Eugène Viollet-le-Duc’s reports and theoretical writings. His theses on the evolution of sculpture were illustrated in the presentation of the casts. The earliest casts, made right at the start of the project, were of the doorways of the Basilica of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine in Vézelay, and of Notre-Dame-du-Port in Clermont-Ferrand, along with several statues from the cathedrals in Chartres, Reims and Paris. Over the years, hundreds of casts were added, the interest of which had been debated in an assembly composed of members of the Commission of Historical Monuments, or de facto adopted upon the recommendation of the museum’s directors.
To create the collections, they all could rely on the expertise, partly lost today, of statue sculptors and casting craftsmen – and to begin with those in the museum’s workshop who were sent throughout the country and sometimes abroad to gather the imprint of sculptures representing each type of architecture and the quintessence of the work of Renaissance and modern masters. Some casts were acquired from other French or foreign institutions, while yet others entered the collection through donation exchanges, as it the case for the large sculptures from the cathedrals of Senlis and Laon. Cast in the 1840s, at the time of the first restoration work, these pieces are the oldest in our collections.
The collection of the galerie des moulages is presented on the ground floor of the museum