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How Is Sculpture Authenticated?

Sculpture that is mechanically reproduced in editions (more than one of each), and/or in numerous mediums and sizes, raises questions about authenticity, dating, and ethics. Such problems are exacerbated by the failure of many nineteenth-century artists and foundries to maintain records, as well as by the absence of foundry marks, cast numbers (a twentieth century practice), and even signatures. This has been particularly true with Rodin’s sculpture. And many of his studio records are illegible, others are non-existant.

The history of ownership of an object is important to deciding whether or not it is authentic.  Connoisseurship – knowledge about how an object is supposed to look – is also crucial.

With Rodin, lifetime casts and Musée Rodin posthumus casts (authorized by Rodin) are all originals.  This was confirmed in 1974.  When Rodin scholar Albert E. Elsen, Professor of Art History at Stanford University, was elected to the presidency of the College Art Association, he confronted the issues in this area by bringing together sculptors, art historians, lawyers, curators, museum directors, and art dealers.  The committee drafted the “Statement on the Standards for Sculptural Reproduction and Preventative Measures to Combat Unethical Casting in Bronze.”  This statement serves as the basis for many authentications made today and also sets the standards for the production of contemporary editions of sculpture.  You can read the statement online at http://www.collegeart.org/guidelines/sculpture.