Jonathan Cohen

Jonathan Cohen

Posted on 05/15/2013

Photo taken on June 20, 2012

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Carnegie Museum of Natural History
relief statues
Carnegie Institute
Hall of Architecture
Naxian sphynx
votive column of the Naxians
votive column
Carnegie Museum
Oakland neighborhood
United States
Forbes Avenue
Colossal Naxian Sphinx

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The Naxian Sphynx – Carnegie Museum, Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Naxian Sphynx – Carnegie Museum, Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Guided by the view that a replica of a masterpiece was superior to a mediocre original, collectors from the time of Rome’s first emperor until the early 20th century amassed great plaster-cast collections of recognized masterworks. As early as the fourth century BCE, the Greeks made plaster casts of famous marble statues. In Roman times, the passion for Greek sculpture resulted in the reproduction of works of art. Plaster casts were also popular during the Renaissance, when the “rebirth” of antiquity influenced artistic taste. By the late 18th century, inspired by new archaeological finds, collections of plaster casts could be found in most European cities.

In the 19th century, the demand for plaster casts skyrocketed. As centerpieces of the great international fairs, casts nourished nationalistic pride, while independent cast “galleries” served the Victorian fervour for education by providing instruction to both the amateur and the art student. Also, the dominance of historical styles in premodern architecture required that the architecture student study the outstanding buildings of the past; in this pursuit, plaster casts played an essential role.

A cast of votive column of the Naxians (The Colossal Naxian Sphinx) is on display in the Hall of Architecture at the Carnegie Museum of Art. The original, currently located in the Archaeological Museum of Delphi, Greece, dates from 570-560 BCE.

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