The Iconography After Anthony van Dyck: Originality and the Status of the Copy
In the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, the copperplates of the Iconography lie dormant on darkened shelves in the corner of a quiet print workshop. At the request of a private client or curator, the plates are slipped from their protective felt jackets, inked up and printed. Fresh impressions stacked on a worktop are marked with pencil corrections, their crisp paper branded with their publisher’s monogram: Musée du Louvre Chalcographie. Yet only a few miles south in the palatial reading room of the Louvre’s department of prints and drawings, immensely valuable ‘original prints’ taken from the very same plates some three hundred years ago, are carefully eased from a great leather folio and placed on easels to be scrutinised from a safe distance. In light of this differentiation, it is surprising that the problematic of originality and the status of the ‘copy’ are issues yet to be discussed in relation to this series. This dissertation will examine how the Iconography problematises the deep-rooted cultural hierarchy that prizes original over copy, author over imitator, and singular over multiple. It will expose the contradiction in valuing some impressions as ‘originals’ while deeming others mere ‘reproductions’. In so doing, the insufficiency of the dominant discourse of originality – the determiner of value since the Renaissance – will become clear. As such, this dissertation will propose the Iconography warrants a reinterpretation that is unpolluted by our ‘culture of originals’.