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Models and Multiples – Eighteenth-century European Porcelain Sculpture

Martin, Matthew (2013) Models and Multiples – Eighteenth-century European Porcelain Sculpture. In: Congress of the International Committee for the History of Art 2012, July 2012, Nuremberg, Germany.


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The ambiguous place of the porcelain medium within the field of sculptural aesthetics provides an intriguing lens through which to examine the status of the multiple artwork. The eighteenth-century porcelain modeller created a sculptural model in a medium like wood or terracotta for multiple reproduction in porcelain. It is the porcelain object, however, which is the artwork, not the artist’s model which only rarely survives. This contrasts with the survival of original models for works in marble or bronze which have been the objects of collecting interest since the mid-eighteenth century.

This is surely connected to porcelain’s uncertain status as a medium in the canons of sculpture and, by extension, fine art. Although early European porcelain retained an aura of the Kunstkammer material and was embraced as a sculptural medium by a number of artists, by the end of the eighteenth century, influenced especially by the ideas of Winckelmann, the medium’s ability to facilitate serial production and imitate other materials saw porcelain sculptures relegated to the realm of domestic kitsch. This devaluing of the multiple object creates a concomitant devaluing of the original model. The issue is complicated however by the fact that porcelain sculptures were in fact rarely ever examples of simple reproductive or repetitive multiplication. The assembling of complex porcelain models, as well as the frequent addition of polychrome decoration, meant that no two porcelain sculptures drawn from the same source model were ever identical. This paper examines these issues in detail through close analysis of a group of porcelain models by the sculptor Joseph Willems produced by the English Chelsea factory in the mid-eighteenth century.

Item Type: Conference Papers (Paper)
Repository Version: Proofs
Keywords: Eighteenth-century, art history, porcelain, devotional sculpture, multiple artwork
Fields of Research: 19 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing > 1901 Art Theory and Criticism > 190102 Art History
19 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing > 1901 Art Theory and Criticism > 190103 Art Theory
Socio-Economic Objective: E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970119 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of the Creative Arts and Writing
Type of Activity: Pure Basic Research
Subjects: A - Humanities, general
College/Association with University of Divinity: YTU: Yarra Theological Union
Depositing User: Dr Matthew Martin
Date Deposited: 19 Jul 2016 02:56
Last Modified: 19 Jul 2016 02:56
URI: http://repository.divinity.edu.au/id/eprint/2102

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