H. de Roos - What is an original Rodin?


Are Posthumous Casts Reproductions?

Arseneau´s second demand, all posthumous casts should be marked as "reproductions", seems to comply with the definition quoted from Mayer´s Dictionary, but, judging the matter from my personal experience with gum printing,  this definition has a semantic flaw as well, where it says "...done in the same medium as the original or in another". Again, the process of translation from one medium to another is not properly considered.

Should someone else try to create a gum print from a negative foil I have prepared, I would hesitate to call it a "reproduction", since the term  - as defined by Mayer´s - implies, the result would be a copy of an original art work. Though in gum printing, the negative foil functions as a matrix, I would not call the foil as such an "original art work". Only the final gum print would deserve this name. The foil is needed for the exposure. But it does not define the color, the ductus, the number of coatings, the contrast and detail of the final result.  During the watering process - which in gum printing takes much longer than the exposure and is just as decisive for the final result -  the foil is not needed at all.

Similarly, in bronze casting, the polishing of the surface and applying the patina are steps that give the cast individual qualities that have no direct root in the plaster. The plaster my be an original art work as such, but its specific artistic quality as a plaster gets lost when translated into another medium.

The other possibility, to consider one bronze cast as a reproduction from another bronze cast, - the first would be a facsimile of the latter, done in the same medium - fails as well, since posthumous casts mostly are produced without using an "original" bronze cast as a reference at all and do not necessarily imitate the patina of historical casts. To call the very first pair of bronze casts of the Victor Hugo Monument "reproductions" falsely suggests there must exist an original bronze example.

In posthumous bronze casting, the term "reproduction" seems to add no more clarity than the term "original edition". The word "reproduction" in the end may even function to conceal - instead of reveal - the way museum curators and foundry craftsmen have added their own artistic interpretation to Rodin´s work.

For these reasons, the neutral term "posthumous cast" - neither suggesting Rodin made or authorized this individual example himself nor that it represents a mere technical copy from an existing art work - would be the most appropriate way to refer to posthumously produced bronzes, in combination with an indication of the issuer and the foundry, the casting year and the edition number, and the plasters used.




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