Collecting and replicating antiquities: casts, substitutions, and the culture of the copy in the Quattrocento

Clark, Leah R. (2016). Collecting and replicating antiquities: casts, substitutions, and the culture of the copy in the Quattrocento. Journal of the History of Collections, 28(1) pp. 1–13.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jhc/fhu064

Abstract

Traditional approaches to the collecting of ancient gems tend to be iconographic or to form part of patronage studies. This article, instead, pursues how the culture of the copy associated with antique gems and coins can be related to broader practices around copies in religious and secular contexts in the fifteenth century. It argues that the collection of both original antiquities and their copies brings to the fore issues around reproducibility in the early modern age, which both differ from and compare to concerns around mechanical reproduction in the modern age. Access to, and possession of, original gems was restricted, but copies across media gave individuals the opportunity to know these small collectible items through chains of touch and representation. By considering the role that copies played in the collecting culture of the fifteenth century, this article draws attention to the materiality and sociability of the copy, pursuing issues around substitution, transmission, and temporality.

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