After Brancusi died in 1957, two of his friends, the painters Alexandre Istrati and his wife Alexandra Dumitresco were designated as his heirs. Nowhere in his will did he mention the right to reproduce his works. But the Istratis won that right in a lawsuit against the Pompidou Centre and Istrati, who died in 1991, and Dumitresco, was had reached the age of 80 in 1995, proceeded to carve out a posthumous Brancusi empire in Europe and Asia and, to a lesser extent, the United States.
During the long court battle, the Istratis removed 22 original plasters, including the «Large Cock» from Brancusi's sealed studio and it was believed they made copies of these before they were returned to the studio and later cast from them rather from Brancusi's original clay models, but the Istratis denied this.
Many prestigious art dealers, museums directors and art historians condemned the notion of making more Brancusis as «unthinkable and absolute heresy» and some of them went even as far as describing reproductions as forgeries apart from stressing that any new piece cast from a genuine Brancusi after the date of the artist's death on march 16, 1957 should be considered as a reproduction and presented as such.
Brancusi never permitted any of his assistants to work on his bronzes and Sidney Geist, his expert, said it was a sad fate that his sculpture should now be cast in series by two painters who never touched his work when he was alive.
It is generally accepted that Brancusi finished all of his sculptures himself but Istrati apparently told people otherwise saying that many of the later lifetime casts were not anymore touched by Brancusi himself adding that it was in his view a myth that Brancusi had been polishing each work himself. Ernst Beyeler, the Basel art dealer who brokered the sale to the Fondation Pierre Giannadda, a private museum in Martigny, Switzerland, of a stainless-steel «Large Cock» cast by the Istratis in the 1970s, notably said on his part that posthumous casts were quite legitimate.
It has been estimated that as many as 18 different sculptures have been cast by the Istratis. Given that Brancusi only made some 400 original works, in bronze, plaster and marble during his lifetime, the percentage of posthumous casts add a sizeable and distorting fraction to his oeuvre, the Artnews Website was quoted as saying.