Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien

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The Collection of Plaster Casts dates back to the founding years of the Academy under Peter Strudl in the late 17th century. Its task was to serve as study material for Academy students. Around 1800, the era of Neo-Classicism, the Collection was systematically extended through the addition of sculptures from Ancient Greece and Rome. In 1851, the Cast Gallery was assigned a further important function - it became publicly accessible as a museum.

In the new Academy building, designed by Theophil von Hansen and ready for occupancy in 1877, the so-called Gipsmuseum (cast museum) was shown centrally and representatively. In the Aula with its eight adjoining rooms, the Collection was, for the first time ever, displayed chronologically, as it had meanwhile acquired casts from all epochs, thus providing an overview of the history of European sculpture. This task was fulfilled by the Collection of Plaster Casts until the 30ies of the 20th century, at which point it was moved from the Academy, owing to changes in the curricula and a generally dwindling interest in the collection as such.

The photo shows a windowless, white room with many round arches and sculptures. In the left half of the picture, an unnaturally large bust of David is positioned on a wooden pedestal in the foreground. The head with the curly hair is turned to the right so that only the profile is visible. The right half of the picture shows a narrow, long room in which there are other busts as well as standing and reclining sculptures. Most of these sculptures imitate antique models.  The Collection of Plaster Casts, interior view
© Photo: Klaus Pichler

For more than 50 years, the remaining plaster casts were hidden in various storage rooms. In 1989, however, the preserved exhibits of the Collection of Plaster Casts were taken over into the organization of the Academy's Paintings Gallery and put on display in the completely renovated Studio Building (former Semperdepot). Apart from the plaster casts, the Collection also comprises several originals, most of which have been donated to the Academy. The casts have been preserved quite well, and their condition is stable; any restoration can only be done gradually owing to the extremely limited funds available. The collection displayed today shows the preserved 450 casts in an exciting denseness, which challenges the observer to view them critically and from various angles.