William Blake Replica Life-Mask
Size: Approximately 9 inches high by 6 inches across
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This plaster cast of William Blake's life-mask is produced through a mechanical process by means of a mould, or impression, taken directly from the original work. The result is a negative from which one or more casts can be made. This complicated process is called moulding and is as old as sculpture itself.
Traditionally these masks would have been produced from piece-moulds and cast in plaster. Plaster was the material par excellence used in the production of life and death masks owing to its ease of use, its ability to reproduce detail, its remarkable mechanical resistance and its moderate weight. The original mask was painted to protect the delicate plaster surface.
Today the use of silicone rubber has made it possible both to simplify the work of making the mould and to produce plaster casts of very high quality surface detail.
1. A barrier layer is spread over the work of art, and the rubber is applied directly onto the surface.
2. Over the silicone rubber lining, a shell is then created which is called the mother mould that supports the flexible rubber liner and gives stability.
3. Hard casting plaster is then poured into the mould which is then rotated to ensure that all surfaces are evenly coated.
4. The surface is then painted and closely coloured matched to the original portrait.
The technique of moulding and casting is considered an art in itself and it is well to stress the particular attention and sensitivity that is spent to ensure that the cast is as faithful as possible to the original life cast in the National Portrait Gallery collection.