IPERION CHIntegrated Platform for the European Research Infrastructure ON Cultural Heritage

COTECH-Copying the master or mastering the copy? Reconsidering copying practices as a pictorial strategy for artistic renewal and art theory in the 16th-C Low Countries

User Group Leader: A. Harth
Venue:  C2RMF (Paris), PRADO, SPK (Berlin)


The project for ARCHLAB is an integral part of my PhD project Copying the master, mastering the copy. Copying as an imitative strategy in the 16th-C Netherlandish painting practice. This PhD project is conducted at the Department of Art History of Ghent University with funding from the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). The central aim of the PhD project is to examine the copying practice of renowned, sixteenth-century Netherlandish painters through a theoretical lens by depending on the classical principle of imitatio. In contrast to the modern concept of originality, this project thus
argues that the practice of copying is an interpretive act involving a degree of difference between the model and its copy. In order to identify and understand the intellectual implications of this difference, the project thus asks: Why do renowned, sixteenth-century Netherlandish painters copy existing models, which models do they choose, and how do these masters exactly copy?
In doing so, the project thus does not limit itself – conceptually, theoretically and methodologically – to consider the imitative principles underlying the practice of copying by solely focusing on formal differences between model and copy, but also by addressing the degree of difference in materials and techniques.
The main goal of the current ARCHLAB project is to gather and examine available technical data in three conservation research institutes: Rathgen Forschungslabor Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (SPK, Berlin), Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France (C2RMF, Paris) and Museo Nacional del Prado (PRADO, Madrid).
We finalized our research visits at the three conservation research institutes. During our stay at all three institutes, we followed a standard working protocol. On the one hand, museum files and technical documents were carefully consulted per painted copy or model. On the other, we conducted close visual analysis on and if allowed we took high-resolution photographs of the painted copies or their models, which are preserved in the associated museums, the Gemäldegalerie, Bode Museum, Musée du Louvre, Museo del Prado and El Escorial.


PRADO report

C2RMF report

SPK report





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Posted on

June 8, 2018