Wrong on so many levels

September 3 2012

Video: Leonardo da Vinci Equestrian LLC

A US company is offering 'original' casts of a sculpture they say is by Leonardo. The casts derive from what the company calls a 'rapidly detoriorating' beeswax sculpture which was attributed to Leonardo some years ago by Professor Carlo Pedretti. Despite the apparently fragile condition of the beeswax sculpture, which remains in a mysterious private collection in Switzerland, a mould was (recklessly?) taken by a business consortium with the intention of selling reproductions. This mould, which is now being hailed as 'the original mold' of Leonardo's sculpture, now belongs to a Mr. Richard A. Lewis of Indianopolis who, through a Las Vegas company called Art Encounter, is offering 'original' casts in bronze for between $25,000 and $35,000. The whole operation has been blessed by Leonardo scholar Professor Carlo Pedretti, who has declared the casts to be 'perfect, perfect, perfect!'. However, he evidently has not told them what the word 'original' really means.

The revered 'original mold' and casts will soon be embarking on a 'world tour' (er, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York and London) this autumn. The casts are available in four limited editions of 996. Sign up to buy yours here! More news reports here and here.

Update - a reader sends me this note from the College Art Association (CAA) on the ethics of making such casts. It concludes:

Posthumous castings from finished bronzes, unauthorized casts such as those made as a result of work being in the public domain, enlargements unsupported by verifiable instructions from the artist, posthumous translating of a carving into bronze, or work in any material other than wax, terra cotta, and plaster that is bronze cast for the first time, are undesirable.

The CAA is always keen to present itself as the mother of all art historical bodies, and even calls for legislation to protect the principles in its casting guidelines. Should the CAA have a word with the makers of these casts, or even Professor Pedretti about his involvement?

Update II - an interesting response from a sculptor here.

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