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Academic library of plaster sculptures

Between 1823 and 1965, more than 500 plaster casts of sculptures, architectural fragments, and anatomical models of humans and animals were purchased for drawing lessons. To learn to draw well, these objects had to be copied. Maastricht’s Academische Gipsotheek (academic library of plaster sculptures) houses all the surviving objects from that collection.

Amazingly, but luckily for us, lists, invoices and other correspondence regarding the purchases of plaster casts for art teaching in Maastricht have been kept. However, this does not mean that we know exactly what was purchased, and when. The names given to sculptures change over time, making it impossible to attribute a date of purchase to every single sculpture.


Parts of the collection survived for many years in attics and basements, their importance appreciated by only a very few people.

The minutes of one of the meetings of the first board of the Stadsteekenschool (City Art School) in 1823 make mention of plaster sculptures that are assumed to belong to the Municipality. Drawing teacher Pierre Lipkens protests, pointing out that the sculptures used are his personal property. Prior to this, alongside his work as a teacher of drawing to secondary school pupils, he ran a private drawing school. One of the students he taught there was a young Théodore Schaepkens (1810-1889) who, following Lipkens’ death in July 1826, spent six months teaching at the Stadsteekenschool.

The lists were first unearthed in Limburg's national archives (chiefly, the archives of the Stadsteekeninstituut (City Art Institute) and the Middelbare Kunstnijverheidsschool (Secondary School of Arts and Crafts) by Marjet van de Weerd for her 2008 Master's thesis ‘The plaster sculpture collection of the Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts and Design.’

A selection of these acquisitions are here captured below:

Acquisition from 1827


One of the heads of Saint John from the collection, the work of Renaissance sculptor Donatello, which may well be the head mentioned in the list.

Acquisition from 1828


Hercules is the Greek hero who wears a lion cape. Given the lion head covering on this sculpture, it is a good candidate for the sculpture named in the list.

Acquisition from 1829


Unfortunately, none of the heads in the quite large collection can be identified as an example of the Paris mentioned in the list.

Acquisition from 1830


The 2010 catalogue reads: ‘head of an unknown woman’ next to what could well pass for Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth mentioned in the list.

Acquisition from 1835


In all probability, this bust of Homer is the portrait of the Greek author of The Iliad and the The Odyssey, purchased in 1835.

Acquisition from 1843


Two feet from the collection. It is not possible to determine whether they are the two feet mentioned in the list, as there are even more feet among the anatomical models.

Acquisition from 1846


There are three large and four small écorchés in the collection, which are still used in lessons on anatomically accurate drawing on the Master Scientific Illustration.

Acquisition from 1889


A relief from the top frieze in the Grote Kerk church in Dordrecht.

Acquisition from 1899-1900


A fragment of a statue of Isabeau of Bavaria.

Acquisition from 1902


The weeping face.

Acquisition from 1914


Bust M.A. de Ruyter.

Acquisition from 1926


The head of Gattamelata by Donatello, life-size.

Acquisition from 1929


Hermes Fastening his Sandal.


The Discus Thrower by Kessels.

Acquisition from 1942


An ornament with Tulips.


An ornament with two leaf patterns.

Acquisition from 1945


Eagle’s head relief.

Acquisition from 1948


Molière, bust.

Acquisition from 1963


Bust of Socrates.


Van Ghendt, bust.

Acquisition from 1965


Some reliefs were hung in the attic of the home of the De Stuers family. The skylights installed for art teaching create the perfect light to showcase the pieces.

Maastricht Institute of Arts