Electrotypes are replicas produced by a combination of mould-making, electro-chemical process and craftsmanship. They were particularly popular in the second half of the 19th Century and were copied from original metalwork objects in museum collections throughout Europe.
The Birmingham firm of Elkington and Company developed a particular expertise in their production. With the cooperation of the South Kensington Museum, they copied many of the great medieval masterpieces. The pieces produced were generally of a high quality and were faithful copies of the originals, although not made from the same material. They were usually plated with gold or silver, while many of the originals were of iron, bronze or pewter.
Electrotypes were made as examples of design and style and to provide inspiration for contemporary craftsmen. At a time when travel was more difficult and expensive than today, they also had a strong educational function, providing students with access to the great medieval works of art. They were produced initially as museum pieces but were also sold to the public. The National Museum of Ireland, then the Museum of Science and Art, was a sister institution of the South Kensington Museum and acquired a substantial collection of Elkington material around the end of the 19th Century.