Seminar | Hannah Wirta Kinney on Copies of Antiquities
From the seminar flyer:
Hannah Wirta Kinney | Commissioning Faithful Copies
of Antiquities in Eighteenth-Century Florence
The Wallace Collection, London, 31 October 2016
In Some Observations Made in Travelling through France, Italy, Etc Edward Wright concluded his account of the famous antiquities of the Tribuna of the Uffizi by describing bronze copies of its four most important statues, which were on display in the Duke of Marlborough’s Blenheim Palace. Visiting Florence in 1720, Wright had assisted the Lord Chancellor Thomas Parker to purchase bronze copies of the same famous antiquities. The casts’ maker, Pietro Cipriani, promised that they would “at least equal [Massimiliano Soldani Benzi’s for Marlborough], and be the most exact that ever were made.” In correspondence with their patrons, both sculptors suggested that the exactness of their copies resulted from the moulds they used to cast them, which had been taken directly from the original marble. But the authorization to make and thus acquire a faithful copy of a Medici-owned sculpture was carefully controlled. Permission to copy came from Tuscan Grand Duke Cosimo III himself. The mould thus became the material proof of the copy’s close relationship to the original, and therefore of the copy’s value. It was also, importantly, the meeting point between the interests of the artist, the commissioner, and the owner of the original.
During the age of the Grand Tour collectors desired copies of the renowned works in Italian collections, but the authorization to make a copy was carefully controlled by the original’s owner. A copy of a well-regarded original could be read not only as evidence that the purchaser was aesthetically discerning, but, further, that he had the diplomatic connections that would allow it to be made. Conversely, for Tuscan Grand Duke Cosimo III, the ritual of the request for a copy, like the praises of his statues that echoed in the halls of his galleries, reinforced his claims of political relevance in a moment of weakening power. This paper explores how ‘faithful’ copies materialized and displayed political relationships in the eighteenth century. The larger goal is to invert the standard narrative of the Grand Tour, to look at artistic production, rather than just at consumption, as a process of identity formation.
Seminars in the History of Collecting
Hannah Wirta Kinney (DPhil candidate, University of Oxford)
Commissioning Faithful Copies of Antiquities in Eighteenth-Century Florence
Monday, 31 October 2016, 5.30pm
Lecture Theatre, The Wallace Collection
Admission is free and booking is not required. More information and details of the seminar series can be found here.