This volume originates from an international conference (Oxford University, 2007). Texts address plaster casts and related themes from antiquity to the present day, and from Egypt to America, Mexico and New Zealand. They are of interest to classical archaeologists, art historians, the history of collecting, curators, conservators, collectors and artists. Articles explore the functions, status and reception of plaster casts in artists’ workshops and in private and public collections, as well as hands-on issues, such as the making, trading, display and conservation of plaster casts. Case-studies on artists’ use of material and technique include ancient Roman copyists, Renaissance sculptors and painters, Dutch 17th-century workshops, Canova, Boccioni and others. A second theme is the role of plaster casts in the history of collecting from the Renaissance to the present day.
Several papers address the dissemination of visual ideas, models and ideals through the medium. Papers on modern and contemporary art illuminate the changing uses and semantic values of plaster casts in this period. Amongst the types of casts discussed are artists’ models and final works as well as casts after antiquities, including sculpture, architecture and gems (dactyliothecae). The volume demonstrates the richness of the field, both in terms of the material itself and modern scholarship concerned with it. Conceived as a handbook for students, academics, curators and collectors, the text will form a standard work on the role of plaster casts in the history of Western sculpture.