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Innovation in Replication: A case study in dealing with issues of “copying.”Matthew Baumann, Department of History of Art, The Ohio State University
When discussing the concept of innovation, it is
important to define what is meant and to explore the limits of the
term. This paper discusses just that; it deals with what is
innovative about Roman copies of Greek sculpture. This has been a
hotly debated topic for more than a century. I hope to add to the
discussion with a case study of the Righetti Hercules, a statue housed
in the Vatican Museum. This paper will draw heavily on the work
of Mark Fullerton, Tonio Hölscher, and Ellen Perry; yet, I believe it
is useful for considering how these different theories play out with
regard to a single sculpture.
The Righetti Hercules provides a prime example of eclectic copying practices and the problematic scholarship surrounding the study of Roman copies of Greek sculptures. The sculpture itself has not garnished much attention in the last 50 years; however, in the late 19th century it was a very important work in the known repertoire of Roman art. Most of the early work on this statue, suggested that it derived from a prototype by either Skopas (because of the lack of a beard) or Polycleitos (because of the curvature of the body). However, the legs of the sculpture also are remarkably similar to another statue of Hercules, which has been attributed to Lysippos. When added to the mix, this leaves us with three of the greatest Greek masters represented in three different body zones. What would the motive behind this be and does it matter? Ultimately, this paper will demonstrate both how the attribution of copies works and how its methods can be highly questionable. It also proposes how ancient Romans viewed eclecticism in art not as a mere pastiche of earlier objects, derivative in nature; but, instead the Romans may have recognized the talent required to pull together the multitude of precursors into a single unified sculpture.