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Art Replicas – Understanding the Art Through its Copy

What is the difference between copy and replica; how do we define them? Can a replica hold qualities such as beauty and age value or do those attributes belong only to the original artwork? Which instance stands behind the production; who are those who produce authorized art replicas and who produces the forgeries?

Art replication emerges as a discipline which imposes further inquiry. This research will encompass historical, cultural and social understanding in production and usage of art replicas contained by cultural heritage. Objects and challenges of the research are conducted within multidisciplinary relations of theoretical and certified replicating practices. Theoretical study in my research is enclosed by practical aspect by which creating authorized art replica will provide new perspective towards affiliation between the original artwork and its double, serving as a foundation for defying values and roles of an art replica. Due to my previous education and artistic experience I have received full permission for creating the replica of eminent Finnish painting “Duke Karl Insulting the Corpse of Claus Fleming” (1878) by Albert Edelfelt that is exhibited in Turku Castle where replication takes place in situ since October 2011.

Study of replica will give suggestive model for ethical and copyright standards including the issues of risk-management in art replication process. Discoveries and results aim to evoke new approaches in maintenance of cultural heritage by introducing the present view and usage of art replication as envisage for further development.


Albert Edelfelt, “Duke Karl Insulting the Corpse of Klaus Fleming”, 1878. Oil on canvas. Ateneum Museum, Finnish National Gallery, Photography archive. Photo by Hannu Aaltonen. 



Art replication project is approved by National Gallery of Finland, the owner of the original work, and Turku Castle where replication takes place in-situ. The reason for choosing this particular work for replication is based on its essential role in building Finnish society and cultural heritage. Moreover vital place this work holds in the creation of Fennomen movement and the epoch of Finnish Golden Era in art and society. Due to its values and role in building of the national identity and with an agreement by my supervisors, I have decided to make time-reverse replica which will represent the work in its state during the first public appearance at Paris Salon in 1878.


Replication organized by museum or other cultural establishment starts with many forms of preparations and studies of the artist’s manner along with technical analyses of the original work. My study was concentrated on the records and visual revision of the original. The copyright laws and questions of authenticity by the museum require that the size of copies and replicas need to be different from the original. Often replicas are made in smaller dimension due to the final purposes and function of made replica, e.g. replica as a substitute of the original for international exhibition. In our project replica is primed bigger. The size of the original painting is 157 x 202 cm while our replica is 160 x 210 cm fundamentally with intend to keep the scene and figures in their concrete range.

In preparation method of the stretcher, canvas and coating layers I have followed notations as the original work was made. I started with gathering authentic material regarding 19th century academic practice in Paris (France) to which this work belongs.

When the canvas was stretched and layers of coating were applied, the next step was to trace the image to the canvas. The projection of the image and outline-drawing was made at University of Turku (Art History Department) with high resolution imagery. Regarding the need for precision due to the visual differences between the painting and its photograph, the tracing was continued in Turku Castle next to the original work.


Selected images represent some of the stages of replication process.

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