Facsimile and Originality: Changing Views of Classical Casts in Arts Education and Art History

By Joseph Basile.

Published by The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 17, 2014 $US5.00

The use of plaster casts of Classical sculptures as models for the edification of art students is attested to as early as the Academy of Design in Florence. In the early United States, plaster cast collections of art and design schools constituted not only educational assets for artists-in-training, but important collections of plastic arts in America’s burgeoning cities. This paper follows the trajectory of the plaster cast collection at one such institution: the Maryland Institute College of Art, formerly the Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanical Arts. One of America’s oldest colleges of art and design, the status of plaster casts here is demonstrative of changes in arts education in the US: from favored models to increasingly ignored remnants of defunct teaching methods and styles, to decaying artifacts of the college’s past in need of care and preservation. Ideas of cast and “copy” are examined in light of critical theory, beginning with modernist notions of originality and “aura,” and postmodern concepts surrounding authenticity and “migration.”

Keywords: Art Education, Arts Pedagogy, Art History, History of Taste, History of Arts Institutions, Institutional Critique

The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 8, December 2014, pp.11-30. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 17, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.601MB)).

Dr. Joseph Basile

Associate Dean of Liberal Arts and Professor, Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

Joseph Basile is associate dean of liberal arts and professor of art history, theory, and criticism at Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. He has a BA in archaeological studies from Boston University (1987), and an AM and PhD from Brown University in old world archaeology and art (1990 and 1992). As an archaeologist, Professor Basile has excavated in the US, Greece, and Italy, and was associate director of the Brown University excavations at the Great Temple in Petra, Jordan, from 1997 to 2006. As an art historian, his research focuses on “hybrid” and “synchretic” art in Classical antiquity, Greek vase painting, and the history of archaeology, and he has published articles in books and journals such as Near Eastern Archaeology, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, Petra Great Temple Reports, Archaeology Odyssey, Archaeologia Transatlantica, Classical World, Oxford Companion to Archaeology, Archaeological Method and Theory: An Encyclopedia, Revue des archéologues et historiens d’art de Louvain, and Brown Classical Journal. He is currently working on Warriors in Stone, a book on commemorative warrior statuary in the Iron Age Mediterranean, for Cambria Press, due out in 2013.