Authenticity vs 3D reproduction: Never the twain shall meet?

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This article discusses a 3D print of Rembrandt van Rijn’s Saul and David to introduce the debate on art reproduction. Confusion about and a rejection of 3D printing is caused by the fact that this technology is hard to define as a form of art reproduction. Furthermore, 3D printing causes tension within the way that value is granted to original paintings. Walter Benjamin’s theory of aura and other contemporary texts, such as Thierry Lenain’s book on art forgery and David Lowenthal’s articles on the authenticity of artworks and reproductions, provide a theoretical framework with which to introduce the current debate on ‘original’ and ‘copy’, a discourse that is becoming more important because of the increasing quality of reproductions through 3D printing. Exploring the concept of authenticity, this article shows how contemporary society grants value to artworks and reproductions. Authenticity as a concept is not static; it is a social construction that allows various perceptions of art that can change over time, resulting in shifting perceptions of both original artworks and (3D) reproductions. Finally, this article relates the various perspectives of authenticity to 3D prints in assessing whether these reproductions can become authentic in and of themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArts in Society
Subtitle of host publicationAcademic Rhapsodies
EditorsSophia Hendrikx, Merel Oudshoorn, Lieke Smits, Tim Vergeer
PublisherUniversiteit Leiden
ISBN (Print)978-90-9032417-3
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • art
  • 3D printing
  • 3D scanning
  • authenticity
  • painting
  • Walter Benjamin
  • reproduction
  • Reconstruction


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