Imitatio vs. Emulatio

[Emulation or Imitation: The Case of Dürer vs. Raimondi Exhibition Review]

Smith College Museum of Art has a knack for salvaging early modern works from the usual curatorial platitudes to recast objects in entirely unexpected ways. Emulation or Imitation: The Case of Dürer vs. Raimondi plays to interests in contemporary cultural issues of copyright infringement and the unauthorized reproduction of creative material by contextualizing the two artists’ prints within the framework of such debates. The show presents several original prints by Albrecht Dürer and corresponding copies by Marcantonio Raimondi, mostly from the former’s Life of the Virgin series. Though Dürer and Raimondi act as the major players of the show, approximately twenty-five prints from a variety of Renaissance artists are arranged to develop distinct categories of visual citation, including emulation, imitation, and outright copying.

Ironically, the exhibition’s endeavor to demonstrate Dürer’s relevance depends upon decidedly unfashionable art historical methodologies--I’m talking about that body of Morellian arts we call connoisseurship--and it works. Dürer presented a legal case against Raimondi not because the Italian artist was copying his prints, but rather, because he disseminated works bearing Dürer’s distinctive AD signature. Several of Raimondi’s copies are therefore almost identical to their Dürer models, and were intended to pass as such. Connoisseurship is crucial to the premise of the show, allowing the curators to distinguish “original” from “copy”, and to arrange the objects as such for public viewing. Implicitly, Emulation or Imitation advocates the reassessment of a methodology too often dismissed by contemporary academe, while also prompting questions about the problematic dichotomy between “real” and “fake”.

Link to Smith Current Exhibition Page

The Specifics:

Emulation or Imitation: The Case of Dürer vs. Raimondi
January 9 - April 19, 2009
Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, MA

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