An over one-hundred-year-old collection tells its own tale. Similarly to the original marble or bronze sculptures, the plaster casts capturing them as snapshots also have their own history. The present and past circumstances were a determining factor in organising the exhibition: some pieces had to be left out because they have decayed, been lost or are extremely fragmentary, while others, although somewhat damaged, are exhibited due to their significance.
The material on display here provides an expressive overview of sculpture, despite the undeniable hiatuses. These casts are copies in several respects. Firstly, they were made in moulds taken from original sculptures. Secondly, these “originals” were in many cases copies themselves, since numerous ancient Greek sculptures are known today only through their Roman adaptations. Most bronze sculptures survive through their marble copies. There are objects displayed here that are the reconstructions of their originals, known from descriptions. And there are others whose original models are exhibited differently today, for example, without earlier replacements or additions, possibly with different ones. Thus, more than one date may be given to an object: first, the date of the Greek original, then that of its Roman adaptation, the time when a mould was taken from the sculpture, and finally, the date when the mould was filled with plaster to result in the replica seen here. The oldest object of the collection has a (cast) date of 1850, and the youngest ones are from the 1910s. During the restoration of the Greek and Roman copies, we accepted the present condition of these plaster casts, a result of their trials and tribulations, and refrained from replacements or additions, thus some of them are more fragmentary now than when the cast was made. Previous curators of this collection, aiming at illustrating their original appearance, gave a marble-like finish to some of the sculptures and a bronze-like patina to others. We kept these modifications.
A plaster cast collection plays a dual role: in places where public collections are wanting in excellent original sculptures, plaster cast collections can show the outstanding works of European sculpture. It does not only serve an educational purpose but is also an irreplaceable means of artistic development. Plaster casts should not be contrasted with original sculptures because they evoke, as lifelike imprints, the creative spirit and craftsmanship of once people, educating and delighting us.