High Art Xerox

The Louvre

Modern art historians have spent a lot of time grappling with the question of when a copy of an artwork is as effective as the original. Can a viewer have a truly authentic experience with a Michelangelo fresco or Donatello bronze through an inauthentic medium—a slide or photograph or reproduction?

Strip away all the highfalutin theory and what this comes down to is whether or not art should be readily available (even if it is a crummy postcard or some such) to everyone, or if access to art is about pursuit not experience.

The latter principle is a bit too elitist for me, which is why the work Factum Arte is so noteworthy. A collective of digital technicians and art specialists, Factum Arte produces take-your-breath-away-they-look-so-real facsimiles of artworks for conservation and archival purposes.

Their latest project was creating a life-size reproduction of Veronese’s Wedding at Cana for the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, where the massive painting was housed hundreds of years ago. During the French invasion, Napoleon absconded with the work and took it home with him; it still resides in the Louvre. But thanks to Factum Arte, the church has a second-to-none replacement that restores the work to its rightful place in a context that asserts the power and presence of a “mere" copy.

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