# Primary Sources on Copyright - Record Viewer




Petition by citizen makers of plaster casts to the National Convention, 3rd March (1794)

Source: Archives nationales, Paris (F17/1304)

Petition by citizen makers of plaster casts to the National Convention, 3rd March (1794), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

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Chapter 1 Page 1



3rd March, 1794


Petition by citizen makers of casts to the National court


Citizen representatives,


The law of 19th July, which guarantees the property of authors of texts, composers of music, painters and sculptors, omits sculptors and makers of plaster casts.  It is for the reparation of this omission that we come to beg your assistance.


Plaster-casting is to sculpture what the art of typography is to literature.  It is the cast that multiplies the work of the chisel.  The art of making plaster casts requires neither the gifts of genius nor the talent of imitation, nor the study of nature.  Only mechanical methods are used by makers of casts to reproduce impressions of sculpture of all kinds.  But these methods are difficult and require protracted experience.  Casting a figure also requires fairly considerable advances of time, care and money.


And yet no sooner has the maker of casts offered the public plaster copies of a statue, for which the right to cast has been ceded to him by the sculptor, than a race of hornets seizes his property.  We are speaking here of those copiers of casts, veritable pirates, hardened to surviving on prey and plunder.  They appropriate one of these copies from which they take what is called an after- or counter-cast.  In no time they flood the capital and the provinces with deformed and counterfeit knock offs, degrading works of art by these fakes, and undermine the business of real plaster-casters by selling at cut price.


The plaster-casters have complained about this violation of their property for a long time; in claiming their rights they have the advantage of pleading also the sculptors’ cause.


The sculptor does not always have occasion to develop his ideas in marble or in bronze.  Less beautiful and less enduring, plaster offers him a cheap means of communicating them to the public, of marketizing them, and of reproducing them through multiplication.  If, as is often the case, the sculptor advances money for castings, he has an interest, like the casters, in quelling the abuse that we are denouncing.


He might, perhaps, console himself for the losses occasioned by this robbery, were his honour not also endangered by the incompetence of these ignoramuses who, not content with trafficking their piracies with impunity, seem to make a point of dishonouring the fruits of their greed.  Masterpieces, those even of antiquity, monuments that encode the proportions of nature and the principles of beauty, are travestied, mutilated, violated, and maimed in all possible ways by their grasping and brutal hands, and represent after a certain time, no more than phony translations fit merely to misdirect the young student, and unrecognisable even, to the master of art.



Chapter 1 Page 2

But we will leave to them the task of laying before you, with greater force, the damage occasioned to the arts and to artists by this kind of robbery.  It is our good fortune that we have been able to link our cause with theirs.


It must however be enough for us to have shown you an ancient abuse that has escaped the axe of the Revolution, and to have denounced a blatant property violation, that we can hope to obtain from you the protection that industrious and hardworking citizen patriots have never begged from you in vain.


We ask that the law of 19th July 1793 be applied to the works of plaster-casters, and that you stipulate what punishment or what fines the counterfeiter who has not obtained permission from the owners of the statues or casts will risk if he is discovered to be casting, selling or hawking works in plaster. 


Translation by: Katie Scott


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