CFP: Variety, Variation, Multiplication in Premodern Art (TU Berlin, 13-15 Apr 2023)

Printed images and moulded artworks have one thing in common: they refer to an “original form” to which they stand in a complex relationship. Produced in a mechanical process with the help of a (negative) form – a casting mould, a printing block or a printing plate -, they assert a reference of similarity both to their model and each other. Nevertheless, they are not reproductions that are largely identical to their “prototype”.

After all, the transfer of the original is done in a different technique and usually also in a different material than that of the “prototype”. Thus, each is produced in its medium which influences the form with its technical requirements. From a technical, material and formal point of view, they rather represent variants than precise reproductions of the initial work. And even the reproduced works do not look the same. Although they are based on a common casting or impression mould, they are subject to the conditions and contingencies of the production process, as well. In addition, these products were often further processed, i.e. “varied”. This is particularly the case in the 15th and 16th centuries, the period in which the techniques of printmaking and moulding were redefined through the innovative use of materials, the opening up of new markets, and the development of a specific aesthetic: Three-dimensional objects – such as sculptures made of terracotta or plaster – were reshaped in parts and individually polychromed, while two-dimensional works – mainly woodcuts and copper engravings – were coloured, trimmed or silhouetted. This raises the question of the relationship of the artefacts to each other or their individuality: Were the works understood as individual pieces, as part of a series, as repetitions? Or did the attraction lay precisely in the knowledge of the singularity of the pieces despite their obvious similarities?

Variety, Variation, Multiplication in the art of the 14th to 18th centuries shall be the subject of the seventh conference in the series “Interdependencies. The arts and their techniques”. Instead of focusing on the standardising effect of reproduced artworks and printed images (e.g. through the establishment of certain types of images and the standardisation of knowledge), we want to question the variants and their variances arising through printing and moulding processes or further processing. On the one hand, we are interested in the differences between the originals and the repetitions. On the other hand, we want to explore the margin opened up by the respective production process as well as by the possibilities of further handling: How do the products relate to their “prototype” and each other? Do the variances result from intentional interventions or, the production process? What is the function of the medium of transfer? What is the effect of the change in materiality? What forms of further processing can be observed? How can common and singular characteristics of the reproduced works be described? What connects two- and three-dimensional reproductions and how do they differ? And last, but not least: How has the tension between similarity and deviation been received? Did it play a role in the perception of contemporaries or was it ignored?

Interdependencies VII – Seventh international conference of the research project “Interdependencies. Arts and Artistic Techniques” at the Department for Art History, Institut für Kunstwissenschaft und Historische Urbanistik, Technische Universität Berlin

Organized by: Magdalena Bushart, Livia Cárdenas, Andreas Huth

All those interested in the conference are invited to submit an abstract of no more than 5,000 characters together with a short CV. Please send your proposal by August the 1st, 2022, to: Prof. Dr. Magdalena Bushart ( und Dr. Andreas Huth (