This Exhibition Has Ended

January 31, 2015
July 19, 2015
In the Bartels Gallery

Drawing on Cornell’s collection of plaster casts after classical art—the brainchild of Andrew Dickson White—this exhibition marks Cornell’s Sesquicentennial by returning to the University’s deep roots in teaching from objects. It examines the origins of cast making, the early use of casts in drawing academies, and the nineteenth-century phenomenon of assembling casts for study and appreciation, questioning the understanding of “original” and “copy” within the museum context. Cast and Present also serves as a companion to the 2014 exhibition Firing the Canon: The Cornell Casts and their Discontents at the Weinhold Chilled Water Plant building next to Beebe Lake.

The cast collection was compiled in the 1890s with funds from Trustee Henry Sage. Originally displayed in McGraw Hall, the pieces were moved to Goldwin Smith Hall in 1906. By the middle of the twentieth century, viewpoints on the educational relevance of casts had shifted, and most were packed away.

Cast and Present will allow visitors a renewed opportunity to envision Cornell’s cast “museums” of yesteryear, all the while asserting their ongoing value as learning tools in the digital age. Casts of some of the most renowned works of antiquity will be on view, including the Belvedere Torso, the Spinario, and the Venus de Milo. Many, like the cast of the Nike of Paionios from Olympus and three figures from the Roman Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum, are emerging refreshed from disrepair thanks to an intensive program of object conservation. Small casts, after antique coins and gems, and prints and photographs from the collections of the Johnson Museum and Cornell Library will add to the discussion of collecting and disseminating classical forms and knowledge. 

This exhibition was cocurated by Annetta Alexandridis and Verity Platt, associate professors in the Departments of Classics and the History of Art, with the participation of their students, and coordinated by Andrew C. Weislogel, the Seymour R. Askin, Jr. ’47 Curator, Earlier European and American Art, at the Johnson Museum. We are grateful for the key partnership of Kasia Maroney, objects conservator at Boston Restoration in Trumansburg, New York.

This exhibition has been made possible by the generous support of Madeleine Bennett ’48.

Visit for more on Cornell's Sesquicentennial year.