Saturday, May 20, 2017

A Casting From Life (1887)

Édouard Joseph Dantan: A Casting From Life

Édouard Joseph Dantan’s naturalistic painting A Casting From Life depicts the moment when a painter and his assistant remove the plaster negative from the leg of a female nude. Dantan’s painting thematizes the technological creation of a perfect human representation according to a classical aesthetic of elegance and beauty. Not without blatant gender implications, it narrates the positive story of a media negative, the plaster cast. However, this snapshot from an artist’s studio ultimately withholds the final aesthetic product for which the cast was made (if it is not the female nude or the painting itself), so that the story the painting tells offers viewers the  hope but not the certainty that the technological process glorified by the image will eventually generate an exceptionally beautiful naturalistic artwork. [A. Dana Weber, “Vivifying the Uncanny,” in Fact and Fiction: Literary and Scientific Cultures in Germany and Britain, ed. Christine Lehleiter, University of Toronto Press, 2016, p. 309]

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