The statue as settlers: Amalia June Wickstead, Trend Settlers: The Russell Statues, Casting the Classical and Cultural Colonisation, MA dissertation, The University of Auckland, 2022


Abstract: Eighteenth and nineteenth century British and European colonial extension into the New World and the South Seas resulted in the growth of new colonial cities. With this development came the establishment of Western institutions, namely, the museum. These new museums needed content, and where better to look than the models beloved at ‘home’ in England. The need for legitimizing ancestors for a young Empire, and already established reverence for Greco-Roman art saw British colonisers looking to the ancient past for works which represented both. Works within the canon of ancient sculptures deemed the paragon of material culture were reproduced in plaster, distributed, and displayed throughout the colonies during the Victorian period. Behind each of these donated collections can be found an individual, or a small group of men, who sought to enrich their emerging cities and enhance their personal legacy. In a single transaction, groups of casts could be sent to preserve ‘good taste’ and provide the means for education while also establishing the donor as a cultured connoisseur and a generous philanthropist. These displays of wealth were a way of building legacy, both personal and cultural, as they connected cities like Auckland, New Zealand, back to English art and values. As the circulation of casts reached its height, Auckland was given its sizeable collection by Thomas Russell. The Auckland Institute and Museum received thirty-three statues and busts in 1878, made by Domenico Brucciani, the era’s foremost castmaker in Britain. The donation was significant in size, quality, and precedence. With the Russell Statues (as this gift is known), the Auckland Institute and Museum could diversify its collection, following in the footsteps of other cities moving towards a colonial metropolitan ideal. My research tracks and examines the uses of this collection as exhibition items, educational tools for the South Kensington system, tastemakers, and decoration, unveiling the complex roles they have filled. This thesis explores their odyssey from fabrication in Brucciani’s London workshop to their resting place – principally in the Auckland Museum’s storage facilities. It also investigates the dissemination of Western artistic ideals and the European fascination with Greece and Rome.

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