Artists and their use of plaster casts

In the early Renaissance, artists, such as Michelangelo, were the first to carry out restorations, to make moulds and collect plaster casts. The very first artist to collect casts was probably the Paduan painter Francesco Squarcione at the beginning of the 15th century to train his apprentices.

Towards the end of the 16th century the painter and writer Giovanni Battista Armenini recorded that there were cast collections for artists in many northern Italian cities. The role artists and art academies played in the diffusion of classical taste was very important, and today often overlooked.

The most influential academy was the French in Rome, established in 1666. By 1684 it already had more than 100 casts. Before the end of the 17th century there were academies with casts for artists north of the Alps, in Mannheim, Copenhagen and Berlin. Collections continued to grow, and by 1725 the French Academy had leased the Palazzo Mansini in Rome to display the long-known Most Beautiful Statues and the newly discovered.