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The Restoration and Reproduction of Works of Art

  • Michael Wreen (a1)


In 1972, one of Michelangelo's earliest and best-known Pietàs was attacked by an evident lunatic. Fifteen times it was struck with a ninepound hammer; the Madonna's arm was broken in several places, her nose was knocked off, and her eye and veil were badly chipped. Immediately after the assault, and before knowing precisely what was needed to be replaced, the Director of the Vatican Museum, Redig de Campos, decided that integral restoration was called for.



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1 Sagoff, Mark, “On Restoring and Reproducing Art”, Journal of Philosophy 75 (1978), 453470. The quotation is from 457. Subsequent references to Sagoff are indicated in parentheses.

2 See Battin, M. Pabst, “Exact Replication in the Visual Arts”, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 38 (1979) 153158. I use Battin's example here in a slightly different context than she does, however: she is concerned with exact replicas of the Mona Lisa as it now exists.

3 Chisholm, Roderick, “Parts as Essential to Their Wholes”, Review of Metaphysics 26 (1973) 581603, esp. 581–582. Sagoff, like Chisholm, also assumes that mereological essentialism entails mereological changelessness, the principle that if y is ever a part of x, then y is a part of x at every time that x exists. Sagoff, however, seems to hold a principle of mereological changelessness which is not only graduated and restricted but further qualified as well: some natural changes an artwork undergoes, e.g., a painting's acquiring a patina, apparently do not run afoul of his (implicit) principle of mereological changelessness. At any rate, the finer conjectures of interpretation aside. Sagoff is committed to at least some doctrine of mereological changelessness.

4 Non-graduated, unrestricted mereological essentialism is criticized by Plantinga, Alvin. in “On Mereological Essentialism”, Review of Metaphysics 28 (1975) 468476. Chisholm's reply, “Mereological Essentialism: Some Further Considerations”, follows Plantinga's article, on 477–484.

5 In fact, this paper was abridged, emended, and amended. I would like to thank Peggy Battin, Monroe Beardsley, Denis Dutton, the editor of Dialogue, and three anonymous Dialogue referees for the useful suggestions which led to these changes.

6 Without even partial change of relative identity (if the notion of relative identity—or partial identity, for that matter—makes sense at all). Cf. Sagoff, “On Restoring and Reproducing Art”, 459, n. 9.

7 See my “Is, Madam? Nay, It Seems!”, in The Forger's Art: Forgery and the Philosophy of Art, ed. Dutton, Denis (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1983), 188224, esp. 190–1%.

8 A similar point is made by Battin, “Exact Replication”, when she writes: “What makes that famous person famous is just his having created the work in question; the work, then, cannot derive its value from the fame of its author. Night Watch is not valuable because it was painted by the famous Rembrandt; rather, Rembrandt is famous because he painted the valuable] Night Watch” (155).

9 Janson, H. W., “Originality as a Ground for Judgment of Excellence”, Art and Philosophy, ed. Hook, Sidney (New York, NY: New York University Press, 1966), 2431. esp, zi.

10 Clarke, Arthur C., “Aladdin's Lamp”, Profiles of the Future (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1963), 156162.

11 These seem to be two of the central theses of Danto's, ArthurThe Transfiguration of the Commonplace (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981). See esp. chaps. 15.

12 Ibid., 35–36.

13 Menard is supposedly quite familiar with Cervantes' work and fully cognizant “of his predecessor as predecessor” (ibid., 36). Pace Danto, then, the resultant test is thus clearly a copy of Cervantes' work, and so not anew Quixote, a Menard Quixote, at all.

14 See Beardsley, Monroe, Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism (New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace, and World, 1958), 557591, esp. 571–576, for an eloquent defence of the view that art promotes human values.

15 Battin, “Exact Replication”, 156.


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