0304 Engineers as Artists − Artists as Engineers

The Reproduction of Art Objects at the World’s Fairs

  • Buket Altinoba (Author)

    Buket Altinoba, Dr. phil., is a researcher at the Institute of Art History at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich working on the project "Machines for the reproduction of sculpture. Competition of reproduction techniques 1770–1880" (funded by the DFG, 2020–2023). Before her visiting professorship at the University of Regensburg, she worked as a research assistant at the Institute for the History of Art and Architecture at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). She participated in the Mathilde Planck Lectureship Programme at the State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart and was a PhD fellow at the Graduiertenkolleg "Image. Body. Medium. An Anthropological Approach" at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design (HFG). Her dissertation on the founding and development of the Istanbul Academy of Arts (2012) was published in 2016 under the title Die Istanbuler Kunstakademie von ihrer Gründung bis heute: moderne Kunst, Nationsbildung und Kulturtransfer in der Türkei.

Identifiers (Article)


"The Great Exhibition of the Industry of all Nations", held at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851, hosted an array of objects that testified to both artistic and technical virtuosity, while their display served as a spectacle for the public. This paper takes up the rich history of mechanical technologies in the service of art using the example of the machine for reproducing sculptures, which was presented as a cutting-edge innovation at the Great Exhibition. Drawing on the history of early photography and in particular the historical context of various techniques of three-dimensional reproduction (such as the 'photo-sculpture' introduced later in 1862), the process of reproducing and displaying works of art on a small scale will be explored. The study of mechanically minded sculptors, who celebrated the almost magical qualities of their machines and the demonstration of the production processes, reveals their ambition to join the ranks of the great inventors, alongside the situation of the pioneers of early photography. The presentation of sculptures, reliefs and objets d’art in the milieu of technical knowledge, industry and manufacture at the universal exhibition of 1851 is thus put up for discussion, also with a view to subsequent international exhibitions.


Cheverton Benjamin, Watt James, Talbot William Henry Fox, Willème François, machine for reproducing sculpture