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CFP: Copy/Copia: The Theory and Practice of Copying

Stephanie Porras, Tulane University,

This session seeks papers that engage with the making of copies, replicas, multiples, and/or reproductions – for pedagogical, devotional, commercial or connoisseurial purpose from ca. 1400 to 1700. The production of copies was central to early modern artistic training, and contemporary texts discussing art often use anecdotes of perfect replication, such as example Parrhasius’s curtain, Veronica’s veil as an analogue to artistic production. In such texts, ideal copies are described as emulative and transformative, contrasted with the slavish or over-attentive duplication of the model – Hendrick Goltzius’s Meesterstukjes as opposed to Hendrick Hondius’s copy of Lucas van Leyden’s Eulenspiegel. But reproductive printmaking was also praised as a particular artistic skillset of Netherlanders. In his 1565 letter to Giorgio Vasari, Domenicus Lampsonius singled out Cornelis Cort as exemplary in his fidelity to the model and for the inventive qualities of his prints.

But what of copies in other media? Or copies that move between media? How do notions of originality translate? When Aerden Vleminck assumed the contract for Jacques Jonghelinck’s Statues of Bacchus and the Seven Planets he stipulated that no copies of the figures “be it in bronze, plaster or any other material, or painted on linen or paper” could by made by Jonghelinck or his workshop without the patron’s consent. Owning a unique object was undoubtedly the goal here – though the series was eventually copied in print. But in media like tapestry, the prestige of a set like Pasquier and Jean Grenier’s Trojan War tapestries was amplified by each subsequent order. Emergent copyright protections, such as those sought by Albrecht Dürer in his famous case against Marcantonio Raimondi, did not defend against copying by rival artists, but the system of royal print privileges did offer commercial protections against competitors.

Cross-cultural copying produced further tensions. The indigenous artists of Asia and the Americas were praised for their ability to duplicate Netherlandish models, but sixteenth and seventeenth-century authors often stressed the limited inventive qualities of these artists, whose contracts regularly specified particular models to be copied. But this imagined relationship between European invention and non-European reproduction was inverted in the seventeenth century, when Delft potters began to imitate the qualities of Chinese porcelain and Amsterdam artists produced imitation Japanese lacquer. How do notions of cultural identity intersect with discussions of imitation and replication?

This session’s goal is to bring together a discussion of copying practices in different media, alongside theories of the copy as encountered in early modern artist’s contracts, religious, pedagogical and/or early ethnographic texts, legal documents and artist writings – with the aim of finding parallels, resonances and points of disjuncture between contemporary theories of the copy in different material and cultural contexts. The ambition of this session is in its breadth – a call to scholars working in a wide variety of
media, from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, addressing work produced in the Low Countries or after Netherlandish models.
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, Baroque

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