Wed, 06.12.2023 – 07.12.2023

Reproducing Antiquity beyond 2D

Conference | Vienna

»Reproducing Antiquity beyond 2D: Three-Dimensional Replicas between Scholarly Practice and Museum Exhibition«

Since the Renaissance, replicas of antiquities have played a central role in communication among the growing community of antiquaries, who sought to understand the range of objects discovered in the ground and appearing in collections across Europe. Illustrations in books were drawn by artists and then engraved, resulting in images, which, as accurate as they could be, were always mediated by human intervention. From the mid-18th century onwards, a growing criticism towards copperplates stressed the need for more accurate ways of depicting antiquities. By the mid-19th century, before the large-scale use of photography, three-dimensional reproductions like casts or other impressions were a preferential way of acquiring a faithful reproduction of the objects to be used for exchanging information. The three-dimensional physical consistency of the replicas carried several advantages. Unlike drawings, they could be placed in cabinets among actual antiquities in order to fill gaps and enabled scholars and students to appreciate the greater or lesser relief of the original objects. In particular, casts of antiquities were acquired by private collectors, but also by universities, art academies and museums for scholarly and teaching purposes, with the first public collection being established by Christian Gottlob Heyne at the University of Göttingen as early as 1767. These collections helped advance scholarship and allowed the study of the ancient world in places far away from where the original objects were kept: gathering numerous works in one place facilitated direct comparison, and gave scholars and students a more comprehensive picture of antiquity.

Today, on the one hand, (digital) photography has introduced a faster and cheaper way of documenting antiquities, and generally collections of casts in museums have lost their appeal, with the result that they are often not on display and end up being relegated to basements or dusty attics. On the other hand, the adoption of computer-based methods and technologies in contemporary archaeological research, combining three-dimensional scanning and the creation of digitized models, as well as the experimentation with 3D visualisation in museums, has brought back the focus on the three-dimensional aspect of reproductions, albeit moving away from materiality.

The conference aims at reflecting on the three-dimensional aspect of reproductions of ancient objects within a broader interdisciplinary context. A group of experts of several disciplines will discuss the role played by 3D-replicas of antiquities in scholarly practice from the early modern period to the present day, as well as the role played by reproductions in the communication among scholars and between scholars and the broader public.


The conference is organised within the framework of the project »Reproducing Antiquity: Casts of Ancient Coins in the Late 18th – Early 19th centuries«funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF Hertha-Firnberg Programm T 1177-G) and carried out at the Austrian Archaeological Institute of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.




December 6-7, 2023

OeAW Theatersaal, Sonnenfelsgasse 19, 1010 Vienna


Daniela Williams
Thomas Schwarnthorer


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