When speaking of the sculpture of the 19th or 20th centuries, one must remember that a bronze is neither an original work nor a unique piece ; it is most often an example, cast from the original model (made from clay, plaster, wax, etc.) and belonging to an edition (comprised of all the examples cast).It is necessary to discern the date of the original model’s creation from that of the example, or cast. In our documentation, the date of the creation of the model follows the title of the work, while the date of the casting is found following the description of the piece.
As the nature of editions has varied during the last two centuries, the description of the editions must reflect these differences:
EDITIONS OF THE 19th CENTURY
Most of these editions are unlimited and unnumbered. This type of edition continued, for some artists, up until the Second World War.
LIFETIME CASTS (during the artist’s life)
is the adjective for this type of cast
means the cast was made or finished under the control of the artist, by his studio.
implies a possible intervention by the artist himself.
means a real intervention by the sculptor.
AUTHENTIC CASTS (after artist’s death)
is used for posthumous casts produced by an editor or entitled beneficiaries.
EDITIONS (before and after artist’s death)
An edition is old
if it was started on the artist’s initiative. Posthumous
concerns editions which begin after artist’s death, with the agreement of entitled beneficiaries.
EDITIONS OF THE 20th CENTURY
In contrast with those of the preceding century, these editions are often numbered and limited. However, the number of examples cast might not be inscribed on the example itself, but rather in archival documents. Editions were comprised variously of 10, 15, 20, or 50 examples, but progressively “settled” at 12 in France. In 1966, the French law defined the “original edition” : eight casts numbered from 1/8 to 8/8, plus four “artist examples”, numbered from I/IV to IV/IV.
The term “original edition” can also be extended to the above-mentioned, pre-1966 20th century editions.
Nowadays, in our profession, only “original edition” examples are presented, in addition to unique pieces. The date of the bronze is no longer approximate, as it is usually stamped in the cast by the foundry, or indicated by our documents.