In this paper, I discuss cases of replication in the visual arts, with
particular focus on paintings. In the first part, I focus on painted copies,
that is, manual reproductions of paintings created by artists. Painted copies
are sometimes used for the purpose of aesthetic education on the original. I
explore the relation between the creation of painted copies and their use as
aesthetic surrogates of the original artwork and draw a positive conclusion on
the aesthetic benefits of replica production by artists. A skeptical conclusion
follows regarding the use of such replicas as surrogates for the original
painting. The second part of the paper concerns mechanically produced replicas,
such as photographs and 3-D prints. On the basis of some of the claims made in
the first part, I set conditions that mechanically produced replicas need to
meet in order to function as aesthetic surrogates of an original. I argue that
perfect aesthetic surrogates are either already available or at least possible.
I conclude by considering two possible objections.
aesthetic education; copies; forgeries; painting; replication
The exhibition, Replicating Genius: Impressionism 1874,
curated by Nathaniel Dunn, was held at the Gus Fisher Gallery in Auckland, New
Zealand, from November 11-16, 2016. It consisted entirely of replicas of
paintings, from the first impressionist exhibition of 1874, commissioned by the
curator from professional artists.
In the curatorial notes, Dunn writes: “Many people, myself included, do not
have the means to travel the world to look at every artwork they would like.
…So how can great art be brought to a more local environment?”
His answer to this question is that replicas may provide a satisfactory
substitute for the appreciation of original artworks. Unlike printed
reproductions in a book, replicas can be the exact size of the original, or
close enough to give the viewer a better impression of the original’s size.
With regard to the purpose of Replicating Genius, Dunn states, “The
ultimate goal is to broaden art education and appreciation.”
It is evident from this statement of intent that Dunn believes replicas provide
some aesthetic insight into the qualities of the original painting.
He is not alone in holding this belief, as he observes, “…replication has a
long history in fine arts …. Copies and copying were used as didactic tools,
and that is how they are being used today.”
Replicating Genius features two relevant aspects of
replication: the creation of painted replicas by artists and their use to
replace an original. The first part of this paper explores the relation between
these two aspects and draws a positive conclusion on the aesthetic benefits of
replica production by artists, an aspect largely ignored by the extant
literature. A skeptical conclusion follows regarding the use of such replicas
as a surrogate for the original painting in order to promote aesthetic
education. The second part of the paper concerns mechanically produced
replicas, such as photographs and 3-D prints. On the basis of the observations
developed in the first part, I set some conditions that mechanically produced
replicas need to meet in order to function as aesthetic surrogates of an
original. I argue that perfect aesthetic surrogates are either already
available or at least possible. I conclude by considering two possible
objections and concede that, at least under one possible interpretation,
perfect copies may lack one aspect of the aesthetic experience of the original,
although this would not interfere with their use in aesthetic education.
2. Appreciation of replicas
The main reason to produce replicas is that they allow the viewer
to experience some of the aesthetic properties of the original. This goal lies
behind exhibitions such as Replicating Genius, as illustrated by the
curatorial statement quoted above. A similar function is performed by the most
common example of replication, that is, photographs of artworks contained in
any art history book and exhibition catalogues. In other words, replicas
function as aesthetic surrogates of the original. This function is what allows
them to perform their role in aesthetic education.
Different strategies may be employed to replace the experience of originals. The exhibition, Replicating Genius, chose the way of painted
copies. Professional artists sat in front of a high-quality photograph of the
original and reproduced it as closely as possible on canvases of the same or
similar size as the original. These artists often carried out extensive
research to become more familiar with the painting methods of the artist they
set out to replicate. However, other strategies are available. In 2006, Factum
Arte, on commission from the Giorgio Cini Foundation, used state-of-the-art 3-D
scanners and printers to produce a copy of Paolo Veronese’s The Wedding at
The painting has been absent from its original Venetian location, the Basilica
di San Giorgio Maggiore, since Napoleonic troops looted it in 1797. The copy
was installed in the Basilica’s refectory, the exact place intended for the
original, now in the Louvre.
It is not my aim to assess which of the available replication strategies
is the most effective. A definitive answer to this question is partly tied to
the answer to the questions of how the surrogate experience is produced and in
what relation the copy stands to the original.
However, the success of the Veronese replica commands attention for the
possibility of widespread use of recent technological developments in order to
produce copies that are barely distinguishable from the original, even upon
close scrutiny. I return to this possibility at the end of the paper
and compare it with the use of painted copies.
3. Replica production: painted copies
This section is devoted to the neglected point of view of the
copyist, so far an unexplored topic in philosophical literature. For the sake
of simplicity, I will talk about copying paintings. The paradigm here is that
of the traditional copying process in which an artist sits in front of a
painting, or a suitably accurate photograph of it, and replicates it in the
same medium, or the closest one available. My claims will concern the relation
of this process to aesthetic education.
In discussing the harm made by forgeries, Sherri Irvin describes
aesthetic understanding as being essentially a bootstrapping process,
constrained by the limits of our background knowledge and perceptual
She claims that, in the absence of objective, axiom-like principles on which to
ground aesthetic discrimination and evaluation, we are left with a framework in
which our perceptual abilities are informed by relevant knowledge concerning
the artwork in question. Such informed perceptual acquaintance with artworks
will, in turn, refine our capacity to situate works in their proper historical
category, and this will allow us to experience new artworks with renewed
historical and contextual understanding.
On the basis of this,
Irvin draws two main consequences regarding forgeries. First, forgeries corrupt
aesthetic understanding, as they invite us to search for aesthetic value in the
wrong places, either because they possess none or because the incorrect
attribution sets up a network of expectations connected with an artist’s known
work. Insofar as they do so, forgeries meddle with the bootstrapping process
that is at the heart of aesthetic understanding. Second, known forgeries, that
is, forged works that have been recognized as such, are capable of honing our
aesthetic understanding, as their inauthentic character helps critics to focus
on the differences between the forged work and the original. Discussing Van
Meegeren’s famous Vermeer fakes, Irvin claims that:
Art historians and others have gradually been able, by
looking carefully at the forgeries in relation to the original works, to
recognize the ways in which aesthetic understanding was distorted before the
forgery was discovered, and to refine their understanding of the true
characteristics of the various periods of Vermeer’s production.
Thus, the fresh look on originals that is possible whenever a
forger is unmasked not only restores the damage in aesthetic understanding
dealt by the fake, it also positively contributes to a better understanding of
the original work by providing a perceptual benchmark against which to judge
it. In 1983, Hope B. Werness set the characteristics of Vermeer’s known
paintings and Van Meegeren’s fakes against each other in a comparative table.
Once the inauthentic nature of the latter paintings had been exposed, it was
relatively easy for a critic to spot the differences between Van Meegeren’s
forgeries and genuine Vermeers, in luminosity, anatomical accuracy,
composition, and other crucial aspects.
The upshot of Irvin’s claims for my discussion is twofold. On the
one hand, it is clear that replicas share with known forgeries the beneficial
effects on our aesthetic understanding, without posing the same dangers as
forgeries. Replicas share with forgeries the relevant relation to the original by
possessing relevant perceptual similarities, up to being perceptually
indistinguishable. However, just as with known forgeries, they cannot deceive
us into thinking they are an instance of the original artist’s work. Therefore,
they may similarly function as a perceptual benchmark from which to judge the
aesthetic and non-aesthetic properties of the original.
On the other hand, and more interestingly, Irvin’s characterization of
aesthetic understanding can shed a light on replica production, which, as I
have previously claimed, has been largely neglected in the philosophical
literature on forgeries and copies. My claim is that painting copies of
artworks may foster aesthetic understanding, in that it forces the copyist down
a bootstrapping process such as the one described by Irvin.
Consider the following example. Suppose an
artist wanted to replicate Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch (1654),
currently at the Mauritshuis. The painting famously depicts a pet goldfinch
perched on its feeder, to which the bird is chained. Generally speaking, two
main characteristics of the painting stand out. On the one hand, our attention
is captured by the loose and suggestive treatment of the bird’s plumage.
On the other hand, the feeder has a trompe l’oeil character and is
rendered with remarkable attention to tonal values and shading. Armed with a
basic art historical understanding of the painting’s context of production, the
artist begins to paint the replica.
The overall naturalistic feel of the painting, especially evident
in the trompe l’oeil effect of the feeder, may suggest to the artist
that the bird should be rendered with abundance of detail. Upon closer
scrutiny, however, the artist realizes that the goldfinch’s feathers are
painted in rapid brushstrokes. The dark plumage of the bird’s wing is visible
through the yellow feathers on top, and the black line in the middle of the yellow
patch has likely been obtained by scratching the surface of the panel with the
tip of the brush’s handle, a technique used by Rembrandt to paint hair curls in
his self-portraits. These features of the painting show its connection with
Rembrandt’s style. Awareness of such stylistic and historical properties of the
work foster a more detailed observation and reproduction of such features. For
instance, the artist might pay attention to the main direction of the
brushstrokes in the original and then replicate a similarly free treatment in
painting the copy.
Moving on to the feeder, and having already noticed its
illusionistic, three-dimensional character, the artist pays attention to tonal
values and shading. While rendering the shadow cast by the feeder on the
cream-colored wall, the artist notices how subtly Fabritius has rendered the
effect of the feeder’s local color on the overall color of the shadow. The
blue-purplish feeder and the yellowish-grey wall mix into a shadow that almost
looks green at some points. This understanding of reflected light and its
effect on shadow endows the painting with an atmospheric subtlety that reminds
the copyist of Vermeer’s Milkmaid (1657-58).
Carel Fabritius’ The Goldfinch (1654)
Remember that the bootstrapping framework described by Irvin
included background knowledge and perceptual abilities. The case I have just
described shows how these two elements interact and support each other in the
process of replication. As the artist copies the appearance of the painting,
she or he becomes more aware of the properties it instantiates and more able to
determine the artwork’s position among other similar works. In turn, this
awareness allows the artist to better notice and reproduce the non-aesthetic
features of the work that are responsible for the aesthetic properties.
However, the process of copying the painting’s appearance always starts from a
prior understanding of the aesthetically relevant elements of the picture that
are related to the work’s classification as, say, figurative
seventeenth-century oil painting.
4. Painted copies and aesthetic understanding
I have claimed that painted copies instantiate the bootstrapping
process of aesthetic understanding described by Irvin. I have also claimed that
replicas, just like known forgeries, have the potential to refine our aesthetic
understanding. From this standpoint, it is worth going back to the issue
regarding the use of painted copies as a surrogate of the original painting. In
fact, a problem ensues when painted replicas are used for the purpose of
aesthetic education on the original painting. Recall that this is what the
exhibition Replicating Genius set out to do. According to its curator,
painted copies can be a successful means to put a vast number of people in
direct contact with masterpieces scattered around the globe. In this case,
replicas are used, in lieu of the original, for the purpose of aesthetic
education concerning that original work. The problem can be described as
In order for the bootstrapping process to work, the relevant
art-historical concepts must be brought to bear on the right sort of perceptual
content. Take the case in which I examine Fabritius’ Goldfinch under the
category Dutch painting. Careful scrutiny of the perceptual surface may reveal
finer-grained perceptual qualities than the ones available to the untrained
eye. For instance, the loose rendering of the plumage will stand out as one of
the picture’s highlights. The problem for painted copies is that it is
impossible to preemptively determine what would count as the relevant
perceptual content. Potentially any perceivable feature of the picture may be
subject to finer-grained perceptual discrimination, once the concepts brought
to bear on the picture are refined enough and our perceptual abilities have
been correspondingly sharpened.
Now, the perceptual experience of painted copies is non-trivially
different from the perceptual experience of originals. Therefore, uncontrolled
exposure of an untutored audience to painted replicas may have long-term
effects on aesthetic understanding as harmful as those of undetected forgeries.
Painted replicas, when they are the sole source of acquaintance with the
original painting, face the viewer with a perceptual surface that, in virtue of
its being non-trivially different from that of the original work, is unfit to
become part of the bootstrapping process of aesthetic understanding described
by Irvin. Thus, while painted copies may be usefully compared with the original,
or with a perceptually indistinguishable reproduction, a museum of painted
copies would pose a threat to aesthetic education similar to that of a Vermeer
exhibition constituted entirely by Van Meegerens.
According to the curator of Replicating Genius, an
additional motivation for exhibiting painted copies is that they can bring to
the public works that are hard to see in person because they are owned by
private collectors or are rarely, if ever, on display. However, if it is true
that comparison with the original work is necessary in order for painted copies
to foster aesthetic education, then the detrimental effect of painted copies
may be compounded when the original artworks are not easily accessible. If all
of the above is correct, caution should be used when painted replicas are
employed for the purpose of aesthetic education and, especially in the light of
recent technological developments, mechanically produced copies may be
5. Replica production: mechanically produced replicas
The skeptical conclusion I reached concerning the educational
value of painted copies suggests focusing on mechanically produced replicas.
The prototypical case here is the photograph. Art history books and exhibition
catalogues present us with the aesthetic properties of the original by
reproducing photographs of them. But how do photographs allow us to experience
the properties of the original? Can they always do so? Or do they have
Robert Hopkins suggests a promising hypothesis, without endorsing
it. Photographs function as an aesthetic surrogate because they are
By looking at a reproductive photograph, we engage with the original work.
Copies, Hopkins observes, share an important feature with photographs in that
they do not need to possess all of the properties possessed by the object they
depict. I can see that Mount Cook is majestic from a photograph of it but the
photograph need not itself be majestic. Hopkins, however, has a reason to doubt
that transparency can thoroughly explain how copies allow us to experience the
original. I will return to his qualms in a moment. Before that, it is worth
observing how the use of photographic reproductions as aesthetic surrogates
does not preserve aspects of the experience of the original that are arguably
Barbara Savedoff has described a variety of ways in which the
experience of an artwork through a photograph is different from that of the
A photograph often differs in size from the original, and this means that
reproductions do not occupy our visual fields in the same way as the originals
do. The surface of photographic reproduction is glossy paper or a computer
screen, and the materiality of paint is lost, along with the importance of its
texture; stereoscopic vision is frustrated by a flat photograph that presents
as two-dimensional what in fact is a three-dimensional brushstroke; colors and
values of the painting are only shown in a fixed light. Finally, “We lose the
ability to move closer and farther away....prevents us from discovering the
tension between a painting’s visual effect and the surface which allows that
effect.” All of these aspects are arguably relevant to
the overall aesthetic experience of a painting yet they are often absent from
our experience of transparent photographs of an original artwork.
To complicate matters, Hopkins notices a problem for transparency
in photographs of artworks. Whereas in a standard photograph of a picture we
would see a picture that depicts a certain scene, reproductions of artworks do
not seem to offer such an experience.
It would seem, Hopkins claims, that we simply see the scene the painting is
depicting without seeing the painting itself. If this is the case, then
transparency might be the wrong relation altogether with which to explain how
reproductions of artworks may function as aesthetic surrogates. Notice that,
regardless of how one may be able to overcome the limitations of photographs
identified by Savedoff, the difference Hopkins is pointing to would still be
present. In fact, Savedoff’s concerns with our readiness to consider
photographs as the artwork itself nicely fits with Hopkins’s observation. Photographs
of paintings limit our appreciation to an appreciation of a photograph, as opposed
to appreciation of the original painting.
Transparency may well be the way in which reproductions of the
garden-variety acquaint us with some of the aesthetic properties of originals.
However, transparency is not enough for photographs to function as aesthetic
surrogates of an original. Regardless of this, there might still be
reproduction of such kind that would allow us to bridge the gaps between the
experience of the copy and that of the original. The remainder of the paper is
devoted to exploring this possibility.
6. Two gaps to bridge
I have so far claimed that the transparent character of
photographs may be exploited in order to experience some of the original’s
aesthetic properties. This might, after all, be the reason why photographic reproductions
play an important role in art historical studies. However, transparency alone
is at best of limited use if our goal is to surrogate the aesthetic experience
of the picture, as it does not secure a number of important features of such
experience, such as actual size, texture, and so on.
The absence of such features has two sources. On the one hand,
transparent pictures of artworks are not perceptually identical to the
original. Their size, texture, and the way they fill the surrounding space are
not the same as the original picture. Call this the perceptual gap. On the
other hand, transparent pictures are obviously different from the object they
represent. At the most basic level, they differ in their causal history and
spatio-temporal properties. For example, Veronese’s Nozze is in Paris,
whereas its 3-D printed replica is in Venice. Because of this ontological
difference, they lack properties possessed by the original that are normally
considered relevant to aesthetic appreciation. While Picasso’s Demoiselles
D’Avignon is a groundbreaking work, no copy of it, regardless of its
accuracy, will be similarly groundbreaking. Call this difference the
7. How to bridge the gaps
For a copy to surrogate the experience of an original, it would
mean to overcome both these shortcomings. I will consider them in turn.
The perceptual gap. The problem with the perceptual gap is
that copies are often non-trivially perceptually different from originals. We
saw this in the case of painted copies, and we found the same problem in the
case of transparent pictures. These are, in most cases, unable to provide
various aspects typical of the perceptual experience of the original, such as
the way the painting fills our visual field or the qualities dependent on
stereoscopic vision. Moreover, the impossibility to foresee how refinements in
perceptual discrimination will influence our future experience of pictures
makes it hard to dismiss any perceptual difference as trivial.
The Veronese replica, however, should make us pause. Although no
absolute proof has been produced that no mistakes occurred in the production of
that copy, the technology employed and the care taken are such that even the
most trained eye might not be able to tell apart the copy in Venice and the
Paris original. More importantly, technology might soon reach a level of
sophistication, if it hasn’t done so already in the Nozze case, that
will allow us to produce copies with differences in size, color, texture, and
3-D shape that are small enough to be undetectable to the naked human eye. I
will refer to such cases as perfect copies. A perfect copy would be only
trivially perceptually different from the original, as the sort of appreciation
that is normally appropriate in the case of visual arts does not require
appreciation of details invisible to the human naked eye, although of course
such details may be relevant when determining technical aspects, such as the
chemical composition of paints. Thus, if the perceptual gap hasn’t already been
bridged by the bold Veronese replication carried out by Factum Arte, it is at
least conceivable that it will be bridged in the future.
The ontological gap. The problem posed by the ontological
gap is that a copy, even though it may be indistinguishable from the original,
is still a different object from it and lacks the right sort of causal history.
For this reason, it cannot possess some of the properties that derive from the
original’s significance, in the course of art-historical development, and as a
member of the appreciative category it belongs to. I will examine a strong
solution to this problem and reject it. Subsequently, I will propose a weaker,
more defensible way to bridge the ontological gap.
Gregory Currie has argued that we should extend to the visual
arts a view that is standardly accepted in the case of literature. Each
accurate copy of Dickens’s Oliver Twist affords the same aesthetic
experience and counts as an instance of the book. Likewise, each perceptually
indistinguishable copy of a painting should count as an instance of the
original work. He calls this the instance multiplicity hypothesis.
Currie’s proposal has also the merit of being compatible with
contextualism, that is, with the widely accepted idea that aesthetic properties
depend not only on the perceptual properties of an object but also on the
context in which the work was created and the category to which it belongs.
Under the instance multiplicity hypothesis, perfect copies of paintings are no
more harmful to contextualism than perfect copies of literary works.
All we need to do is to know that the instance we are examining is related to
an action performed at a certain time and that the artwork belongs to a
determinate appreciative category. These advantages, however, come at a price.
Using the instance multiplicity hypothesis as a way to bridge the ontological
gap, indeed, to eliminate it altogether, requires commitment to a suspicious
ontological framework that, among other things, threatens the intuitively sound
distinction between autographic and allographic art forms. For these reasons,
it is worth looking for a solution that does not entail any controversial
The weaker solution I wish to defend is the following. In appreciating a perfect copy of an
artwork, we treat the object in front of us as if it were the original,
that is, as if it had the causal history and art-historical properties that are
relevant to the original artwork. In doing so, we intentionally disregard known
differences between the original and the copy in front of us. For instance, the
original Veronese was painted by hand, whereas the copy is 3-D printed.
Two observations are in order at this stage. First, abstracting
from some of the properties of an object in order to treat it as a surrogate
for another is a familiar aspect of scientific modeling. In this sense, the
fictionalist proposal I sketched above is just another instance of our capacity
to gain knowledge and expertise regarding an object by dealing with things
other than the object itself. Needless to say, the conditions imposed by copies
of artworks are more stringent than the ones typical of a scientific model.
Whereas the latter may differ in many respects from the modeled object, a
perfect copy needs to be perceptually indistinguishable from the original, for
the reasons outlined above.
Second, and in connection with the point just made, note that I
am limiting this fictionalist proposal to perfect copies, that is, copies that
are perceptually indistinguishable from the original. The fictional stance
towards the object’s identity, that is, the fact that we make-believe that the
object in front of us has the same causal history as the original, does not
interfere with the appreciative process and is therefore a perfect surrogate of
the experience of the original. Here is why. Recall the bootstrapping process
of aesthetic understanding where an artwork’s aesthetic properties are
determined by the way in which the relevant appreciative categories are brought
to bear on the non-aesthetic features of the object. Such informed scrutiny, in
turn, slowly influences our understanding and application of art-historical
categories. Each successive encounter with an artwork is an occasion for our
perceptual discrimination abilities to be refined in the light of the
refinement in the understanding of appreciative categories enabled by past
A perfect copy is, by definition, perceptually indistinguishable
from the original. Hence, no possible refinement in perceptual discrimination
would result in the perfect copy being incapable of functioning as part of the
bootstrapping process. On the other hand, the fictional stance allows the
viewer to bring to bear the relevant appreciative categories on the perceptual
content. Both aspects of the bootstrapping process that allow the appreciation
of the original to foster aesthetic understanding are preserved under this
account. Perfect copies are therefore suitable to the purpose of aesthetic
education concerning the original.
8. Two possible objections
An initial objection might be that this proposal fails to
accommodate a widely accepted contextualist view of aesthetic properties. Once
more, contextualism is the idea that aesthetic properties depend on
non-aesthetic perceptual properties of an object plus the art-historical
context in which the work was created and the category to which it belongs. For
instance, the expressiveness of Titian’s reds depends as much on the specific
hue and distribution of paint on his canvases as it does on its art-historical
place in Venetian oil painting.
It might be thought that, as I take two perceptually
indistinguishable objects to be able to provide the same aesthetic experience,
I am denying that contextualist considerations play a role in determining the
aesthetic properties of an object. This, however, is incorrect. The
contextualist does indeed hold that two indistinguishable objects may differ
aesthetically. But the contextualist’s point concerns properties that are
actually possessed by the objects in question. The fictionalist stance does not
therefore clash with the contextualist framework because it does not deny that
two perceptually identical artworks may have different aesthetic properties. It
simply assumes that it is possible to fictionally engage with an artwork while
perceptually engaging with an object perceptually indistinguishable indistinguishable from that artwork.
In fact, the fictionalist stance I described here is not only
compatible with contextualism. Rather, it figures in one of the most common
ways to introduce and defend such a position. Suppose I am in front of Titian’s
Tarquin and Lucretia (1570). In order to make the point that Titian’s
reds are only expressive if considered in light of the tradition of Italian
painting in which he developed his style, I ask you to imagine the Titian to be
an expressionist work. Considered within such a tradition, Titian’s colors seem
markedly duller. One way to describe what is going on here is to say that you
are make-believe-taking the object in front of you, with all of its perceptual
properties, to have a quite different causal history and hence substantially
different art-historical properties from the ones you know it has. This is
exactly what would need to happen in order for perfect copies to afford an
aesthetic surrogate of an original.
I will now move to a second, more serious objection. A problem
ensues if I refuse to commit to Currie’s ontological agenda. His claim that a
perfect copy of a painting would result in an identical aesthetic experience as
the one afforded by the original rests on the instance multiplicity hypothesis,
that is, that from a modern edition of Oliver Twist we get the same
aesthetic experience as we would get from Dickens’s manuscript, as they both
count as instances of the work. In the case of paintings, a perfect copy would
count as an instance of the work; hence it could be used as a legitimate
aesthetic surrogate. However, if we give up the instance multiplicity hypothesis, and embrace instead the fictionalist proposal, an aspect of the experience of the original will be missing from the experience of the perfect copy. This is the experience of being in front of, or in perceptual contact with, the very object possessing such-and-such aesthetic properties.
For brevity, I will call this the aura experience, with reference
to Walter Benjamin’s much-discussed concept of aura. The crucial question is
this: Is aura experience an aesthetic aspect of the experience of an original?
I do not wish to settle this question here. I will, however, draw the
consequences of both a positive and negative answer. If aura experience is part
of the aesthetic experience of art, then perfect copies are indeed imperfect
aesthetic surrogates of an original. However, and quite importantly, they are
not imperfect surrogates for the same reasons as painted copies, that is, they
do not corrupt aesthetic understanding. Such corruption derived, it will be
remembered, from the lack of a reliable set of non-perceptual properties on
which the viewer would bring to bear appreciative categories. But perfect
copies, as shown by the Veronese case, do not present this problem. If, on the
other hand, aura experience is not part of the aesthetic experience of
artworks, then the absence of the thrill of being in front of the real thing
does not hinder a perfect copy to function as a perfect aesthetic surrogate of
the original. It may, however, be the reason why we still want to see it in
Matteo Ravasio is a PhD candidate at the University of Auckland, where he works under the supervision of Stephen Davies. His doctoral thesis is devoted to the problem of musical expressiveness, although he also maintains interests in everyday aesthetics, environmental aesthetics, and philosophical issues related to the visual arts.
Published on March 8, 2018.
 I will use ‘replica’ and ‘copy’ interchangeably
to mean reproductions that do not involve the original artist. However, it is
important to note that, in art-historical parlance, a replica is a version of a
painting produced by the author of the original whereas a copy is a
reproduction made by someone other than the original’s maker. I do not deny
there may be interesting observations to be made with regard to replicas
specifically. My interest here is to examine the capacity of a reproduction to
function as a surrogate of an original, regardless of its author.
 Nathaniel Dunn, Curatorial notes to the
exhibition Replicating Genius: Impressionism 1874, (11th to
17th November 2016, Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand).
 While I recognize a distinction between
aesthetic and artistic properties, in this paper I use ‘aesthetic’ to refer to
 The production of copies was and still is
considered an important pedagogical tool in the training process of Western
artists. While the practice of copying paintings may be partly motivated by its
mere capacity to improve a painter’s technique, aesthetic considerations are
also crucial in a painter’s choices regarding which works she or he should copy
and which aspects of them she or he should focus on. For some examples of this
practice, see Theodore Reff, “Degas’s Copies of Older Art,” The Burlington
Magazine, 105, 723 (1963), 241-51; Theodore Reff, “New Light on Degas’s
Copies,” The Burlington Magazine, 106, 735 (1964), 250-59; Jeffrey M. Muller,
“Ruben’s Theory and Practice of the Imitation of Art,” The Art Bulletin,
64, 2, (1982), 229-47; Lisa Pon, Raphael, Dürer and Marcantonio Raimondi. Copying and the Italian Renaissance Print (New Haven and London: Yale University Press,
 For a description of both the aesthetic
motivations and technical aspects behind this replica, see Bruno Latour, and
Adam Lowe, “The Migration of the Aura or How to Explore the Original Through
its Fac Similes,” in Switching Codes, ed. Thomas Bartscherer (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 2010).
 See Robert Hopkins, “Reproductive Prints as
Aesthetic Surrogates,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 73,
1 (2015), 12-21.
 Sherri Irvin, “Forgery and the Corruption
of Aesthetic Understanding,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 37, 2
 Hope B. Werness, “Han Van Meegeren fecit,”
in The Forger’s Art, ed. Denis Dutton (Berkeley and Los Angeles:
University of California Press, 1983), pp. 54-56.
Lawrence Gowing, author of one of the most important
critical studies on Vermeer, had already written in 1952: “After the Second
World War it was found that a catastrophe had overtaken criticism. Half a dozen
fabrications had been accepted with enthusiasm by leading authorities. Yet the
confusion itself perhaps shed light on accepted ides about the painter.”
Lawrence, Vermeer (London: Giles de la Mare, 1997); ref on p.66.
 Jerrold Levinson distinguishes between
referential and inventive forgeries. See his “Autographic and Allographic Art
Revisited,” Philosophical Studies, 38, 4 (1980), 367-383. Referential
forgeries are copies of existing artworks presented as the original. Inventive
forgeries, such as Van Meegeren’s Vermeers, are new works with an intentionally
mistaken attribution and succeed insofar as they mimic the author’s or period’s
style. Given this distinction, it might be asked whether more could be said
regarding the different ways in which a known forgery functions as a perceptual
benchmark in the two cases. That it may do so in the case of inventive
forgeries is testified by the beneficial effect on criticism that followed the
discovery of Van Meegeren’s fraud. To explain how it may do so would require
further work, as my framework is more readily applicable to the case of
had worked in Rembrandt’s workshop.
 A note of caution is in order here. It would be
an overstatement to claim that the harm of the museum of copies is just like
the harm caused by a museum of forgeries. Forgeries not only corrupt aesthetic
understanding, they also undermine the trust we have in the experts who we
thought able to distinguish an original from a fake. In this sense, the harm
they may cause is far greater than the one caused by copies.
 Hopkins, “Reproductive Prints as Aesthetic
 Barbara Savedoff, “Looking at Art through
Photographs,” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 51, 3 (1993),
 Hopkins, “Reproductive Prints as Aesthetic
 This difference between the properties of the
copy and the ones of the original is different from the one highlighted by
Hopkins concerning transparency. Whereas the latter may include perceptual
properties, for example, Mount Cook is majestic while its photograph is not,
the former is limited to non-perceptual properties such as ones related to
 Gregory Currie, “The Authentic and the
Aesthetic,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 22, 2 (1985), 153-160;
Gregory Currie, An Ontology of Art (London: Macmillan, 1989). Another
author who embraces something akin to the instance multiplicity hypothesis in
the case of painting is Eddy Zemach.
See his “No
Identification without Evaluation,” British Journal of Aesthetics, 26, 3
(1986), 239-251. For criticism, see Jerrold Levinson “Zemach on Paintings,” British
Journal of Aesthetics, 27, 3 (1987), 278-283.
 Currie, “The Authentic and the Aesthetic,”
 The point that two perceptually indistinguishable
objects may nonetheless differ aesthetically is made, against Goodman, in
Robert Hopkins, “Aesthetics, Experience, and Discrimination,” The Journal of
Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 63, 2 (2005), 119-133.
 Currie answers to this question in the negative in An
Ontology of Art, p. 102.
paper has benefited from many insightful comments and helpful suggestions. My
gratitude goes to an anonymous reviewer, Stephen Davies, Julian Dodd, Nathaniel
Dunn, Ivan Gaskell, Karen Gover, Fred Kroon, Jerrold Levinson, and various
audience members at the American Society of Aesthetics 2017 Annual
Meeting in New Orleans.