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Cast from the Antique: Revealing Hidden Archaeology

Payne, EM; (2017) Cast from the Antique: Revealing Hidden Archaeology. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

Formation of cast collections of classical sculpture peaked during the long nineteenth century (1789-1914). Many collections were neglected in later decades; cast condition declined and jeopardized their capacity to reflect their full value. This thesis explores their potential historical and archaeological significances with the under- investigated British Museum collection forming the main case study. Casts reflect nineteenth century craft techniques and attitudes to classical sculpture. Moreover, where the originals remained in situ post-moulding, they can preserve surface features lost from the originals by weathering. Yet craftsmen were also known to doctor their moulds such that a cast of a damaged sculpture would appear more complete. These interventions compare with the propensity for restoration of classical sculpture conducted to varying degrees, sometimes fancifully, in the centuries following the Renaissance. Such restorations, some now removed from the originals, may also be preserved in casts. Together with the twentieth century decline in cast condition, these factors complicate the interpretation of casts; a subject that this research will illuminate, if not fully remedy. Digital imaging techniques are evaluated for their capacity to investigate surface features of casts and to complete comparative study with the corresponding originals. The project then incorporates a broader historical scope, including examination of the Roman casts discovered at Baiae, commonly believed to have been moulded from ancient Greek bronze sculptures. These are technically similar to the nineteenth century casts and stimulate further questions regarding the production of ancient copies and casts, and the extent of craft continuity between ancient and modern times. A long historical tradition of restoration, reuse, and adaptive copying and casting of sculpture can be documented throughout much of the classical past right up to the present day. Curators, conservators, and archaeologists must consider the full weight of this history when approaching the casts and considering their future.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Cast from the Antique: Revealing Hidden Archaeology
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences
UCL > School of Arts and Social Sciences > Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences > Institute of Archaeology
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URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1553235
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