Foster S (2016) Expiscation! Disentangling the later biography of the St Andrews Sarcophagus. In: Hunter F & Sheridan A (eds.) Ancient Lives: Object, People and Place in Early Scotland. Essays for David V Clarke on his 70th birthday. Leiden: Sidestone Press, pp. 165-186. https://www.sidestone.com/books/ancient-lives
Replicas may complicate but also help to complete the biographies of their parent objects. Disentangling the antiquarian history of the St Andrews Sarcophagus introduces an unexpectedly precocious and productive programme of early 19th-century replication of archaeological objects for the purposes of archaeological science (‘expiscation’), and its subsequent commodification. Credit for this goes to the pioneering actions of George Buist, a newspaper editor and intellectual then based in Fife (eastern Scotland). New archival and documentary research, physical examination of surviving plaster casts and scientific analysis of the original Sarcophagus provide a tantalising glimpse into the interest and energies of early antiquarian societies and their web of connections across Britain and Ireland. They also highlight how the poor or non-existent documentation of past conservation and display practices can hamper our ability to understand the composite biography of the casts and the subject begin cast. This study also demonstrates how the fabric of plaster casts can tell us more about their stories too, not least about their technology and the decisive role of the under-appreciated craftspeople who made them.
Antiquarianism; cultural biography; early medieval sculpture; entanglement; facsimiles; plaster casts; replication; George Buist; St Andrews Sarcophagus