H. de Roos - What is an original Rodin?


The Original And Authenticity

A last remark should be made about the use of the word "authentic".

In his Symposium contribution and various letters, Gary Arseneau refers to the following definition from Black’s Law Dictionary:

"Genuine; true, real: pure; reliable’ trustworthy; having the character and authority of an original."

From this point on, Arseneau uses "original" and "authentic" as synonyms, so that only art works made by the living artist in person would be authentic. But if "original" and "authentic" would be two interchangeable terms, why would we need two words?

In the rest of this essay, I will use the term "authentic" in a broader sense, to refer to art works that conform, in all details of their shape, to an original, or, in the case of bronze casts, were multiplicated from an authentic plaster. Like the term "original", the term "authentic" cannot be defined in an abstract way, but has to relate to historical practice.

In the case of bronze casting, it should be acknowledged that foundries, like the Rudier Foundry, as a rule would multiplicate the plasters sent to them by the artist, in order to spare this first plaster and prevent it would be worn off by repeated casting processes.
Within the framwework of foundry practice, such plaster duplicates and the bronzes made from them would be accepted as "authentic"; this also holds for posthumous plaster duplicates and posthumous bronzes. For the foundry master, such plasters duplicates would "have the character and the authority of the original", as opposed to fake plasters, created by surmoulage on a bronze cast.

In this broader sense, "authentic" refers to the required integrity of form and a direct line of provenance, but does not guarantee the work is an original. This way, we have an additional term for our analysis, connected with the everyday use of the word.

All these conclusions may seem utterly unspectacular, but the conceptual grid worked out in Part I will help us to recognize the verbal strategies actors in the art market employ to promote their own collection or posthumous casts as "original" or criticize other parties.
The controversy about the collection donated to the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie is a perfect example for this and will be extensively discussed now, especially with regard to foundry plasters.




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