When evaluating sculpture, particularly bronzes, you must keep in mind that you may be in the presence of a fake. To determine authenticity, see that each cast have on it information confirming date, foundry, size of edition, actual date of cast if known, whether or not it is an enlargement, surmoulage, or change in final medium. It is important to keep in mind that unauthorized enlargements or unauthorized posthumous change in media should be considered counterfeit. When evaluating 19th century sculpture for instance, we should keep in mind that there are more 19th c. fakes on the market than there were 20 years ago. Moreover, we should keep in mind that artists, such as Henry Moore, made sure to destroy his plasters to make sure his work would not be replicated posthumously. So, if we see an undocumented edition of an artist such as this, we can determine that it is indeed a fake.
The diffusion of prints and replica confuses our understanding of the concept of the original. A few angles are taken in attempting to define or constitute what makes an original. In “A Statement on Standards for Sculptural Reproduction and Preventative Measures to Combat Unethical Casting in Bronze,” the author writes in response to questioning the concept of the original: “The crux of the problem is that casting and printing are reproductive methods and the word ‘reproduction’ does not convey in the public’s mind the values associated with the word ‘original’.” Therefore, it is the nature of the medium itself that is reproductive, the work, then, taken from the same model, is an “original.” The artistic process in creating sculpture and prints is a reproductive one. Some would argue that the actual stone or plate etched on by the artist or the impermanent sculpture first made by the artist is the original; anything produced from the relief is a reproduction. This, to the author, is a narrow view that can be heavily debated. The artist does not care about the term “original” nor is he in favor of the original plaster or etched stone to his bronze or paper editions.
The diffusion of prints and replica affects our understanding of the concept of the original when faced with unethical bronze casting that may allow for an inauthentic copy to be made. Though maybe superficially identical to the artist’s final product, the work has not undergone the same process to arrive at the final work. Even with authorization, copying merely from the finished bronze is considered counterfeit, as it has not undergone the same artistic processes. The author of “A Statement on Standards for Sculptural Reproduction and Preventative Measures to Combat Unethical Casting in Bronze,” writes, “In our opinion a bronze made from a finished bronze, unless under the direct supervision of the artist, even when not prohibited by law and authorized by the artist’s heirs or executers, is a counterfeit as it imitates, resembles, has the appearance, or is a copy of the original, with or without implying deceit.”
We are also puzzled by the concept of the original when we are aware of posthumous casting. Knowing that the artist gave his authority to reproduce his work from the original to produce posthumous editions may or may not be considered “originals.” Enlargements posthumously and unauthorized translation of materials of a work also can confuse our concept of the original. Particularly confusing is the authorized posthumous but new castings from plasters, waxes, and terra cottas. The translation of material, authorized by the now deceased artist, does not seem authentic, again, confusing our concept of the original. In “Art Reproductions for the Masses,” the author writes, “It could be easily argued that reproductions, photographic or other, have bolstered the authenticity of the original by highlighting the differenced between viewing a large canvas in color and relief and a smaller, flat, monochromatic photograph.”
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