Fairfield University Art Museum – Lecture: Plaster Casts in Historical Context




Fairfield University is home to an outstanding collection of plaster casts, which reproduce ancient Greek, Roman, and Near Eastern sculptures and architectural elements to high levels of technical detail. While the cast collection at Fairfield is a relatively recent acquisition, with many of the pieces arriving in Connecticut in 1991, the objects have unexpected historic precedents that date all the way back to classical antiquity.

Plaster casting as a technique that has been practiced for millennia: the material was frequently employed in the creation of sculptures in ancient Egypt, Afghanistan, Italy, and elsewhere. Ancient and modern casts share striking similarities in terms of both materials and technique, but the parallels do not end there. Both fall into many of the same interpretive pitfalls in academic scholarship. Despite being separated in time by thousands of years, casts both ancient and modern are frequently interpreted as functional tools, capable of serving only practical functions.

In this talk, Abbey Ellis, PhD, of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, will challenge these traditional interpretations, arguing for a broadening of interpretive horizons for ancient and modern plaster casts. She will ‘cast’ new light onto the myriad of values that are applicable to plaster objects in the Fairfield University collections and beyond.

 

Please note: This event is in-person only and will not be recorded.

 

Presented by the Art History and Visual Culture Program, Visual and Performing Arts Department, in collaboration with the Fairfield University Art Museum and the Program in Classical Studies.