Electroforming is also known as galvanoplastic copying, after Italian physicist Luigi Galvini (1737-1798) whose early electrical experiments lay the foundation for the procedure. Developed in the 1840s, the process allowed for the manufacture of extremely precise metallic replicas of three-dimensional objects. The technique functioned by running an electric charge through a chemical solution to deposit metal into a mold taken from an original object. The result, typically produced in copper, could then be covered in a thin layer of silver or gold to replicate the material of the original object.
As with plaster casts and photographs, electrotype copies were highly valued in public and private collections of the late-19th and early-20th centuries. By acquiring such replicas, museums and art schools were able to form comprehensive study collections of objects ranging from ancient coins to masterpieces of renaissance goldsmithing. From the 1840s, the Birmingham-based firm Elkington & Co. dominated the English trade in electrotypes. The firm was particularly successful with large-scale pieces, which were technically difficult to manufacture. In conjunction with the South Kensington Museum's Science and Art Department, Elkington dispatched teams of craftsmen to make molds of famous objects throughout Europe. The original beaker, after which these are copied, is in the Royal Collection of Denmark, Schloss Rosenborg (Inv. no. 7-113).