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Iconology of the interval: Aby Warburg's legacy

Matthewa Rampley

To cite this article: Matthewa Rampley (2001) Iconology of the interval: Aby Warburg's legacy, Word & Image: A Journal of
Verbal/Visual Enquiry, 17:4, 303-324, DOI: 10.1080/02666286.2001.10435723

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Iconology of the interval: Aby
Warburg's legacy

It has long been recognized that Aby \I\Tarburg played a central role,
perhaps even the central role, in elevating the role of iconology in Art
History. Having been traditionally regarded as an ancillary activity, icono-
logical interpretation came to displace the concern with aesthetic form and
1 - The term 'iconology' predated style predominant in late nineteenth-century art historical discourse. I
Warburg by many centuries. In the
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Through the work of collaborators, students and followers such as Fritz

si..xteenth century 'iconology' referred to
the identification of allegorical and Saxl, Edgar \l\Tind, Erwin Panofsky or Ernst Gombrich, iconology became,
symbolical figures, for which a number of from the I930S onwards, established as a canonical method in art historical
iconological manuals were produced. The interpretation. Although semiological, psychoanalytical and cultural-
most famous was perhaps Cesare Ripa's
lcorlOlogia (Rome, 1593). The term
materialist interpretations have subsequently dislodged iconology from its
remained in LIse throughout the following central place in the practice of Art History, iconology still maintains
centuries, usually being indistin.guishable prominence in much contemporary scholarship.' Indeed, while iconological
from 'iconography'. Until the late
methods are often regarded as the culmination of the bourgeois tradition of
nineteenth century the terms 'iconology'
and 'iconography' denoted a tool for use scholarship in Art History, it has also been argued that iconology, especially
by artists, and this was thc function of the as formulated by Warburg's student Panofsky, in many ways anticipated
iconological manuals. The attempt to re-
subsequent theoretical positions, in particular, the semiological analysis of
establish iconography on a scientific basis
as an art-historical method of images. 3 However, although the idea of the iconological 'method' is
interpretation was first undertaken by the common currency, its origins in the writings of Warburg have become
French art historian Eugene Muntz. largely obscured. The reasons for this are quite clear. Until the recent trans-
Having already completed a study on The
History oj Art During the Renaissance (Paris, lation of The Renewal of Pagan Antiquiry, most of \l\Tarburg's work has
1895), which made use of iconographical remained inaccessible to anglophone readers, and those few other writings
research, Muntz delivered a paper to the already translated lie scattered across a variety of different publications.'
International Congress in Art History of
1898 on The Necessity ofIconographical
Furthermore, the bulk of his work remains unpublished even in German:
Research'. This also led to the founding in the texts gathered together for the publication, in I932, of Die Emeuerung der
1902 of the 'International Society for heidnischen Antike, the first two volumes of a projected six-volume edition of
Iconographic Study'. See Peter Schmidt,
\l\Tarburg's work, constitute only a small proportion of his total output.')
A b), lvI. vVarhurg und die lkonologie
(Wiesbaden, 1989). See, also, Jan Consequently Warburg's work, though acknowledged as ground-breaking,
Bialostocki, 'Iconography and Ieonology', has tended to be eclipsed by the more voluminous writings of Panofsky,
in Encydopaedia of H'orld Art (New York, Wittkower and others.
1963), VII, pp. 769-85; William
Heckscher, 'The Genesis ofIconology', in The appearance, therefore, of The Renewal of Pagan Alltiquiry, presents an
Heckscher, Art and Literature, Studies in opportune moment to reassess the legacy of \I\T arburg, and in this article I
Relationship, ed. E. Verhey en (Baden intend to examine in particular his notion of iconology. As I shall indicate,
Baden, 1985) pp. 253-81.
2 - The contemporary importance of
there are important differences between \l\Tarburg's understanding of
iconology and the issues it raises is made iconology and better known formulations of the concept, such as that of
evident by the continued publication of Panofsky; these differences have often been overlooked as the thought of the
works on the subject. See, for example,
one has become assimilated to that of the other. I do not raise this merely in
Brendan Cassidy, ed., lconologv at the
Crossroads (Princeton, 1993); W . .1. T. order to offer a corrective to the reading of War burg. Rather, my intention
Nlitchell, leonologv (Chicago, 1986). is to draw out the distinct implications of Warburg's thinking, and to
examine the critical issues raised as its intellectual legacy. In particular, a


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central focus of War burg's writing was what he termed the 'iconology of the 3 - See, for example, Michael Ann Holly,
PanoJsky and the Foundations oj Art Histo~l'
interval', a conception of iconology intimately connected with questions of (Ithaca, 1984) p. 181 ff.: Giulio Argan,
representation, spectatorship and cultural memory.6 Accordingly, I shall 'Ideology and Iconology', Critical Inqlli~l" 2
first discuss his conception of iconology before examining in turn his (1975), pp. 297-3 0 5.
4 - Aby vVarburg, The Renewal oJPagan
treatment of the questions of subjectivity and memory.
Antiqui!v, trans. David Britt (Los Angeles,
1999). Other translations of War burg's
Iconology of the interval work into English include 'The Entry of
the Idealising Classical Style in the
The iconological method is most immediately and most often associated
Painting of the Early Renaissance in
with vVarburg's student Panofsky. In Studies ill lconology Panofsky lays out his Florence', trans. Matthew Rampley, in
famous tripartite schema of natural, iconographic and iconologicallevels of Aby Warburg, cd. Richard Woodfield (New
interpretation.? In particular, using the example of a man offering a York, forthcoming); InzagesJrom the Region
oj the PIleblo Indian" q( North America, trans.
greeting with his hat, Panofsky distinguishes between the putatively natural Michael Steinberg (Ithaca, 1995): 'Italian
recognition of the main raising his hat, the socially embedded meaning, or Art and International Astrology in the
iconography, of the gesture of raising a hat in mid-twentieth-century Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara', trans.
Peter \'Vortsman, in German 1<-ssays Oil Art
Europe, and the iconological meaning of the gesture, in which it is set
HistolY, ed. Gert Schiff (New York, 1988)
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against a background of implicit values and assumptions, including pp. 234-54, Sir Ernst Gombrich's
knowledge of the character of the man in question. In terms of visual repre- monograph on Warburg still offers a rich
source of textual material, in both German
sentations these three levels of interpretation correspond to three strata of
and English translation, unavailable
meaning or content within the representation, namely, primary or natural elsewhere. See Gombrich, Aby Warbuig. An
subject-matter, secondary or conventional subject-matter, and intrinsic Intelledual Biograph), (London, 2nd edn,
meanmg. 1986 ).
5 - Aby Warburg, Gesammelte SdlriJien. Die
Panofsky's tripartite scheme is open to a variety of criticisms. First, it has Emeuerung de,. heidnischen Antike (Leipzig
become commonplace to point out that the notion of a 'natural' level of and Berlin, 1932). According to Fritz Saxl
interpretation is highly problematic. s Second, while the meaning of the the remaining five volumes of the project
complete edition would have been: Vol. 2:
distinction between iconographical and iconological analysis is perhaps clear
The 'Mnemosyne' Atlas and
in the simplified example of the man raising his hat, Pan ofsky himself accompanying materials; Vol. 3:
frequently elides the difference between the two in his actual historical inter- unpublished Lectures and Shorter Essays;
Vol. 4: Fragments on the 'Anthropological
pretations. His study of early Netherlandish painting, for example, focuses
Science of Expression'; Vol. 5: Letters,
on the presence of socially encoded moti5 and themes, and largely fails to Aphorisms and Autobiographical
explore the dimension of tacit symbolism and values that would inform the Writings; Vol. 6: the Catalogue of
'intrinsic meaning'. 9 Hence, while 'iconology' analyses the unconscious Warburg's Library. Die Emeuenmg der
heidnis"hen Antike has recently been
assumption of symbolic codes and meanings, Panofsky's studies tend to focus repu blished as part of a renewed project of
on the conscious artistic use of symbols and conventions. Despite such the complete works of War burg.
weaknesses, Panofsky's method offered a crucial art historical insight, 6 - vVarburg uses the phrase' Iconology of
the Interva]", 'Ikonologie des
namely, recognition of the social mediation of pictorial meaning. Thus, the
Zwischenraumes' in a draft Introduction
iconological interpretation attends to the presence of visual symbols and to his AlnenlOsyne project. Warburg
their conventionalized meanings, coupled with an examination of parallels Archive, \"'arburg Institute, No. 102.1.2,
in other cultural practices such as literature, philosophy, law and so forth.
7 - Erwin Panofsky, Studi,,' in Iconology
In this, Panofsky was also indebted to Ernst Cassirer's philosophy of (Oxford, 1939) pp. 3-31.
symbolic forms, though only following through the full implications of the 8 - This was already recognized as
latter's historicized Kantianism in a few essays, such as his studies of perspec- problematic by Alois Riegl, who pointed
out that perception is historically and
tive or proportion.I (J
culturally variable, and that consequently
It is possible to perceive an affinity between Panofsky's notion of \~sual representation can never be traced

iconology as the study of the social mediation of pictorial representation and back to some putative natural state of
vision. See Riegl, Sptrmische Kunstindustrie
the Marxist attention to the ideological determinants of the visual arts.
(Darmstadt [1905J, 1992) pp. 1-22. More
Iconology can thus be regarded as a form of ideological analysis, albeit recently, this idea has come under the
without the materialist basis of Marxist strategies. Furthermore, Panofsky's most persistent criticism from the
perspective of the semiology of the image.
iconology takes part in the wider shift that has occurred in the Humanities
Sec Norman Bryson, l'ision and Painting.
and the Social Sciences, namely, the spatialization of culture. In the The Logic oj the Ga.;:e (London, 1983).
nineteenth century culture was primarily viewed in historical, genetic terms,


9 - Erwin Pan ofsky , Earll' Netherlalldish but from the early twentieth century cultural formations increasingly come
Painting (New York, 1971).
IO - See, for example, Perspective as ,~v1lZboli[
to be placed within a synchronic network of signs and symbols. Although
Form, trans. Christopher vYood (New Panofsky does not use such terminology, his notion of iconology can be seen
York, 1992); 'The History of the Theory of as anticipating a conception of culture as a symbolic or discursive space, and
Human Proportions as a Reflection of the
it is undoubtedly on account of this that parallels have been drawn between
History of Styles', in AIearlillg ,'" the Visual
Arts (Harmondsworth, 1970) pp. 82-138. iconology and semiology.
Cassircr enjoyed a close reI a tionshi p with The precedent for Panofsky's interpretation of iconology can be seen in
Warburg and his library. Although
many of the writings of Aby Warburg. His doctoral study of Botti celli's Birth
Warburg had already developed most of
his ideas by the time he met Cassirer, he oj Venus and Primavera presents an exemplary case of careful, attentive recon-
was aware of the striking parallels between struction of the cultural milieu, Quattrocento Florence, within which Botti-
their projects. See Silvia Feretti, Cass;r,r, celli's paintings were produced.!! In that study, Warburg reconstructs the
Panofskl' and Warburg: Sl'mbol, Art and
Hislor}, trans. R. Pierce (New Haven,
discourse of Antiquity current in Renaissance Florence, drawing on a
1989); Jiirgen Habennas, 'Die befreiende variety of other cultural documents of the time, including the poetry of
Kraft der symbolischen Formgebung. writers such as Angelo Poliziano and Zanobio Acciaiuoli, certain passages
Ernst Cassirers humanistisches Erbe und
from Alberti's De PictzlTa, a cassone representation of Venus and Aeneas, or a
die Bibliothek vYarburg', in Vortriige ails
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dem TYarburg-HanI, Vol. I (Berlin, 1997) medal struck by Niccolo Fiorentino for Lorenzo Tornabuoni.
PP3- 2 9 A similar process can be seen at work in Warburg's other major study,
I I - Aby Warburg, 'Sandro Botticelli's
that of the meaning and use of astrological symbols in Reformation
Birth of Venus and Spring', in Warburg, The
Renewal of Pagan Antiqui(v, pp. 89-'56. This Germany, in which the significance of Di.irer's famous engraving Jvfelencolia I
will be referred to as Renewal. is set against the background of the obsession with astrology in mid-
12 - Warburg, 'Pagan-Antique Prophecy sixteenth-century Germany.!> In this study vVarburg explores the manifold
in Words and Imag'es in the Age of ways in which supposedly 'primitive' astrological beliefs persisted into the
Luther', in Warburg, Renewal, pp. 597-
Reformation in Germany, even among supporters of Luther, who personally
discouraged such practices. Amongst ,1\7 arburg's voluminous unpublished
writings, too, there are examples of a similar method at work. In his lecture
'3 - \,yarburg, 'Italienische Antike im of I926 on 'Italian Antiquity in the Age of Rembrandt',! 3 Warburg explores
Zeitalter Rembrandts', Warburg Archive,
the cultural symbolism and resonance of Roman antiquity for the early
Warburg Institute, No. 97.2.
Dutch Republic, highlighting, for example, the popularity of Antonio
Tempesta's engraved illustrations of Ovid and Tacitus, or the prominence of
the mythic Batavian leader Claudius Civilis in official pageants, literary
works such as Vondel's drama The BatazJian Brothers, or in the original
14 - Warburg also mentions a triumphal decoration of the town hall of Amstndam q
arch erected to celebrate the victory of
The impression which a cursory reading of these texts might give, namely,
Prince Maurice at Groningen in 1584. 'A
triumphal arch on the Prinsenho[ awaited that Warburg was concerned above all with the reconstruction of the histori-
him, at its top Neptune with his tritons, cal milieu of specific works of art, is misleading. At the beginning of the
and inside Claudius Civilis with several
lecture on Rembrandt's he distances himself from historicism and a vague
Romans at his feet, vainly attempting to
escape. Beneath one could read following sense of the spirit of the age, which arises, he argues, 'all the while the
verses by Spieghel: "Claudius Civilis drove various parallels of word and image are not brought into a systematically
out the hard might of the Romans from ordered series of luminous objects, and as long as the material and formal
the Rhineland and the areas bordering
Batavia. Oh, may this freedom be
connections between art and drama (whether that consists of cultic perfor-
achieved again by the hero of Nassau'" mances, mime plays, or theatre with dialogue and singing) are not seen in
Warburg. 'Italienische Antike im Zeitalter the light of their mutual significance (let alone viewed together system-
Rembrandts', p. 63.
atically'.!5 Despite his stress on a systematic method, vVarburg does not offer
15 - Warburg, 'Italienische Antike im
Zeitalter Rembrandts', pp. 44-5. a system in the manner of Panofsky; but his emphasis invites comparison
with his student, who has most often been regarded as completing much of
16 - This conception forms the basis of
Dieter ,,yuttke's reading of War burg, in the work of War burg, endowing it with greater philosophical rigour.
particular vYarburg's attention to Warburg's emphasis on the necessity of systematic method has been
'Beiwerk', or 'incidental detail'. See
viewed by some as exemplified in his painstaking attention to details,
\,yuttke, A~)' TVarbllrgs Aiethode als Anregung
und Aul~abe, 4th edn (Wiesbaden, 1990) summed up in the famous maxim that 'God is in the detail'.!6 However,
p.66. such an interpretation misrepresents Warburg's interest in culture as a
dynamic process rather than a fixed network of connections. While both
Panofsky and Warburg draw out the web of horizontal relations between
various practices wi thin one cultural space, vVarburg lays a further
emphasis on the historical axis which crosses the synchrony of any particular
historical cultural time. This dimension is largely absent in the mature
iconology of Panofsky, and its eclipse corresponds to the wider process of the
spatialization of culture I referred to earlier. It is in this context that the
meaning of Warburg's project of an 'iconology of the interval' needs to be
explored further.
An indication of the specific character of vVarburg's conception of
iconology can be found early in his Rembrandt lecture, when he asserts that
'One can furthermore draw conclusions about the "spirit of the age" indir-
ectly, when one comes to perceive it as the conscious or unconscious
principle of selection informing the artistic treatment of an ancient inheri-
tance preserved in the memory'.I7 The specific inheritance Warburg is 17 - Warburg, 'Italienische Antike im
Zeitalter Rembrandts', p. 46.
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referring to is Roman and Greek antiquity, which he sees as providing the

basis of vVestern European culture even in his own time. Yet although it
forms a cultural foundation, the meaning of antiquity does not remain
constant; vVarburg's iconology is concerned less with the preservation of
Greek and Roman culture than with their transformatioll. Antiquity functions
as a kind of barometer; Warburg's method explores the dialectic of negation
and preservation, and the identity of a particular culture; for example,
Quattrocento Florence, seventeenth-century Holland, or even early
twentieth-century Europe, lies in the interval between the two.
The phrase 'iconology of the interval' occurs as part of a longer formula-
tion of what Warburg perceived to be his method, in which he analysed 'Art
historical material for a developmental psychology of the oscillation between
a theory of causation based on images and one based on signs'.J8 The intro- 18 - vVarburg. 'j\1IlenIOSYlle Introduction
[Draft]" p. 6.
duction of the notion of a developmental psychology introduces a factor that
is largely absent in the later Panofsky, and also tends to be lacking in most
other conceptions of iconology, namely, the role of subjectivity.19 I shall 19 Panofsky's early writings are an
exception to this. In particular, his works
explore this in the following section, but it is important to note that whereas
in German develop much more fully
Panofsky's system consists of a triangulation of primary - conventional - Warburg's interest in the historicizing of
intrinsic (ideological) levels of interpretation, vVarburg's functions on an the Kantian subject by Ernst Cassirer. See
PanoLSky, A lI/siit:;:e .,u Grllndfragell der
entirely different basis. In vVarburg the opposition between 'a theory of
Klinstwissellschajl. eds H. Oberer and E.
causation based on images and one based on signs' translates into an opposi- Verheyen (Berlin. 1998); Panofsky, 'The
tion between mimetic and semiotic forms of representation, with the third History of the Theory of Human
point of the triangle formed by the subjectivity of both the spectator and the Proportions as a Reflection of the History
of Styles', in Atleanillg ill the Visual Arts
artist. (Harmondsworth, 1970) pp. 82-138.
Warburg's method is underpinned by a conception of visual representa-
tion, and indeed the wider culture of which the representations are a part,
as placed within a field of tensions governed by what one might term, pace
Foucault, psychically energized regimes of representation. His own formula-
tion of iconology thus attends to culture as a dialectical process, and this
plays itself out in a number of ways. Warburg's concern with the meaning of
the Florentine Renaissance offers a prime example. As I noted earlier,
Warburg was drawn to the Renaissance because of the significance of its
appropriation of classical antiquity; constituting the threshold of modernity,
it represented for him a particularly absorbing case of the conflict between
mimetic and semiotic regimes of representation, classical tradition and the


Figure I. Laocoon Group. 50 ill: (Rome,
Vatican). Photo: '~'arburg Institute.
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present. .Moreover, vVarburg's interest in the Renaissance also implied a

critique of the historiographical tradition from Ranke onwards, which
stressed the notion of historical objectivity. Just as the Renaissance was an
appropriation, rather than a faithful historical re-enactment of classical
antiquity, so the historian describes the past through the perspective of the
present. As has become evident subsequently, this applied to ''''arburg, too,
for his interest in the dialectic of the Renaissance was motivated by contem-
porary events, in particular the rise of anti-semitism in the late nineteenth
20 - See Charlotte Schoell-Glass, Akl' century.'"
H'a,bwg ,md de, A,,[is<miti.wllIs (Frankfurt The appropriation of the classical legacy, its place within a dialectical
am Main, Igg8).
process, manifested itself in a number of ways. First, the culture of classical
Greece and Rome was itself a complex phenomenon. Influenced by
Figure 2. Roman Triangular Base (Pari
Louvre). Photo: '.Varburg Institute.
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Nietzsche, vVarburg stresses the dual Dionysian and Apollinian nature of

classical antiquity. In several places vVarburg expressly contradicts the idea of
classical antiquity which, beginning with vVinckelmann, stressed its 'noble
simplicity and tranquil grandeur'.' Instead, the Laocoon statue (figure I), the
21 - Johann Winckelmann, 'Thoug'hts on
the Imitation of the Painting and
occasion for vVinckelmann's formulation, exemplifies far more the Dionysian
Sculpture of the Greeks', in German
current of classical culture. This was manifest not only in the subject of the Aesthetic and Lileral~l' Criticism: ['Vinckelmalln,
myth itselfbut also in the bodily contortions of the figures in the group.oo This Lessing. Hamann, Herder, Schiller. Goetlze, ed.
Hugh Nisbet (Carnbl~dge, '985) p. +2.
Dionysian current manifests itself elsewhere, too; for example, the heightened
22 - See in particular, 'The Entry of the
ecstatic gestures of classical maenads (figure 2), or the extreme violence of Idealising Classical Style in the Painting of
much official Roman sculpture, in particular, the frieze ofTrajan on the Arch the E~rly Renaissance in Florence'.
of Constantine (figure 3). As vVarburg states, 'Prefigured in classical

308 l\,1/\TTHE\Y RAlvIPLE'l<'

Figure 3. Relief from the Arch of
Constantine, Rome. Photo: vVarburg
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sculpture, the triumph of existence confronted the souls of subsequent genera-

tions in all its shattering contradictoriness, as both the affirmation oflife and
the negation of the self. They could see it on the pagan sarcophagi of Dionysus
in the tumult of his orgiastic following, or in the form of the victory procession
23 - vVarburg, 'il1,,'mo.~l'ne Introduction of the emperor on the Roman triumphal arch."3 At times Warburg even
[Final Version]" p. 7. comes to regard classical antiquity as wholly Dionysian, a zero point of
barbarism against which all cultural progress is to be measured.
One focus of War burg's interest was therefore the twofold appropriation of
the classical inheritance, and if we return to his early Botticelli study, it
becomes apparent that alongside the putative grace and elegance of Botti celli's
24 - Warburg, 'Durer and Italian paintings War burg is also attentive to elements in the paintings, in particular
Antiquity', in Warburg, Renewal, pp. 553- the animated way in which Botticelli has depicted the drapery of the figures,
8. which contradicts Winckelmann's version of antiquity. Already in the Renais-
25 - See Warburg, 'The Entry of the
Idealising Classical Style in the Painting of
sance, therefore, a sensitivity to the Dionysian can be seen, and \1\1 arburg
the Early Renaissance'. traces its manifestation in, for example, engravings by Durer,4 or The Battle of
26 - A number of essays by Warburg Constantine by the School of Raphael (figure 4), which vVarburg contrasts with
explore the theme of the dialogue between
Piero della Francesca's version!5
Flemish and Burgundian culture and
Florence. See in particular, 'Artistic The second way in which the polarities of the Renaissance become
Exchanges between North and South in manifest is through the conflict between 'classicism' and 'realism'. \1\1 arburg
the Fifteenth Century', in Renewal,
returns repeatedly to the contradiction between the introduction of the
pp. 275-80: 'Flemish Art in Florentine
Early Renaissance', ibid., pp. 281-303; Dionysian pathos of classical sculpture in the early Renaissance (and
'Flemish and Florentine Art in Lorenzo \l\1arburg regards Donatello as central to this process), and the continued
de' Medici's Circle around 1480', ibid., popularity in Florence of the courtly style of the late Middle Ages, apparent
pp. 305-7; 'Peasants at Work in
Burgundian Tapestries', ibid., pp. 315-23:
in the prominence, for example, of Burgundian tapestries.o 6 Specifically,
'Airship and Submarine in the Medieval \1\1 arburg is drawn to the conflict between the emergent historical sensibility
Imagination', ibid., pp. 333-7: that underpinned the appropriation of classical forms in Quattrocento
'Italienisches Festwesen', vVarburg
Florence and the fact that the art of Flanders, Germany and Burgundy
Archive, No. 98.3.1. See too the lecture on
'Valois Tapestries', vVarburg Archive, No. exhibits a remarkable lack of historical distance; classical subject-matter was
96 .3. still presented in contemporary guise.
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In his essay on 'Airship and Submarine in the Medieval Imagination', Figure 4. School of Raphael, Balli, qf
COllstantine (Rome, Vatican). Photo:
'Neuburg analyses an ara;:.;;.o in the Palazzo Doria in Rome, possibly Warburg Institute.
produced for Philip the Good in Tournai between 1450 and 1460 (figure
5).'7 Its subject-matter consists of two legends drawn from the many epic 27 - The association with Philip the Good
traditionally del~vcd lI'om the fact that in
and romances about Alexander the Great. According to the first, in order to 1459 Pasquier Grenier was commissioned
explore the peak of an extraordinarily high mountain in India, Alexander by Philip to produce a 'chambre de
had a cage built, which griffins then carried up to the top. In the second tap),sserie de l'istoire d'Alixandre'. It has
been suggested that this association is not
legend, Alexander explored the sea bed in a specially constructed submersi-
secure. Sec Jan Duverger, 'Aantekeningen
ble. The first is of special interest to vVarburg, for he interprets it as a subli- betrcffende Laatmiddelecuwse Tapijten
mated form of a primitive sun worship: 'The sunlit uplands of classical met de Geschiedeni, van Alexander de
Grote', Arle..- Te.,'!iles, 5 (1959-60) pp. 31-
culture seem to bear no relation to this underworld of childish phantasms;
43. Scc also Victor Schmidt, A Legend and
and yet there clearly resides in all this the nucleus of an authentic Roman- its Image. The Aerial Flight oj Jlexander the
Oriental solar religion. To my mind Alexander's ascent and descent clearly Great il1 Medieval Art (Groningcn, 1995)
echo the legend and the cult of the sun god, who ascends and descends every p. 1~0 If

day in his chariot - a chariot drawn, in the Syrian cult of .Malachbel, by a

23 - Warburg, Renewal, p. 336.
team of four griffins. '28 It is noticeable in this regard that the legend came 29 - In the first version of the legend, the
increasingly to be interpreted in the Middle Ages as an allegory of human fourth-century Life and 1'1 'arks of Alexa/zder
vanity and hubris."9 vVarburg is therefore interested in mapping out the "J Alac.doll by Pseudo-Callisthenes,
Alexander's flight culminates in an
transformation in meaning of a specific motif. vVith regard to the araz;:.o in encounter with a 'flying human form' that
question, it is also striking that the classical legend has been portrayed in the instructs Alexander to return to Earth. In
contemporary dress of the Burgundian court, indicating an ability to assimi- subsequent versions this becomes an
encounter with the voice of God that gives
late the classical past to the present.
Alexander the same instructions. God also
I have indicated elsewhere the extent to which this Northern 'realism' features in the arn~::;:o.

exemplifies, for vVarburg, a mimetic form of representation,SO and it stands ( Ref 30 ovcrieaj)

Figure 5. The Ascent of Alexander the
Great. Flemish Tapestry, 15th century
(Rome, Palazzo Doria). Photo: \Varburg
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III contrast with the sense of historical distance achieved in the Florentine
Renaissance. However, a simple opposition between 'Northern' and
'Southern' European cultures, quite apart from the gross simplicities
involved, would be misleading since, as vVarburg noted, there are contradic-
tions even within the ara~~o. On the one hand the fantastic events of myth
are depicted including, on the right, Alexander slaying a dragon. At the
same time, Alexander's military conquests are represented in the form of a
siege, in which he takes advantage of the latest military technology of the
fifteenth century: siege artillery. In the version of the Alexander legend
Warburg thought was the direct source of the ara;:.;:.o narrative, namely, the
Alexander romance of Jean vVauquelin, the griffins drawing the airship
began to burn as it rose through the ether into the realm of fire, in response
30 - See my article 'From Symbol to
Allegory. Aby Warburg's Theory of Art', to which Alexander doused them with a wet sponge and called upon God
Art Bulletill, LXXIX!I (1997) pp. 41-55. for protection. In contrast, as Warburg points out, in the siege fire has

3 11
become an instrument of technical mastery through the use of the cannon.
His conclusion is worth quoting at length:

The tapestry in the Palazzo Doria, not previously noticed in the literature, can
thus be seen as a revealing document of the evolution of historical conscious-
ness in the age of the revival of classical antiquity in Western Europe. The
exaggerated costume detail and the fantastic air of romance ... should not
close our eyes to the fact that here in the North the desire to recall the
grandeur of antiquity was as vigorously felt and expressed as in Italy; and that
this 'Burgundian Antique,' like its counterpart, had a role of its own to play in
the creation of modern man, with his determination to conquer and rule the
world. While continuing to visualize the elemental sphere of fire as inaccessible
even to the preternatural strength of fabulous oriental beasts, man himself,
through firearms, had already tamed the fiery element and pressed it into his
own service. It seems to me by no means far-fetched to tell the modern
aviator, as he considers the 'up-to-the-minute' problem of motor cooling
systems, that his intellectual pedigree stretches back in line directly .. , to tt
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grand Alixandre. 3 ' 31 - Warburg, Renewal, p. 337.

While Warburg draws out historical affinities, it is not in the serVIce of a

reductive search for origins, but rather in order to analyse the interplay of
historical continuities and discontinuities. It is this dialectic of the two that
forms the centre of his 'iconology of the interval', according to which a parti-
cular cultural synchrony is intersected by a historical dynamic linking a
series of motivic transformations.
I pointed out earlier the influence of Nietzsche on Warburg, in particular
the influence of Nietzsche's notion of the dual Dionysian-Apollinian basis of
classical culture on \t\Tarburg's own rejection of Winckelmann. This link is
already well established, and has been subjected to detailed scrutinyY 32 See Helmut Pfotenhauer, 'Das
Nachleben der Antike: Aby Warburgs
However, there is a further affinity between the two which is often ignored.
Auseinandersetzung mit Nietzsche',
Specifically, \t\Tarburg's concern with an iconology of transformations bears Nietzsche Studien, XIV (I g85) pp. 2g8-3 13.
comparison with Nietzsche's genealogical analyses. For both, the continuity
of formal motifs is set against semantic discontinuities. In the case of
Nietzsche, the classic example would be his analysis, in The Genealogy oj
iv/orals, of the meaning of punishment, in which he contrasts the persistence
of punishment as a cultural practice with its successive transformations in
meaning. 33 Likewise vVarburg's often painstaking attention to historical 33 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of
lvIorals, trans. '''1alter Kaufmann (New
antecedents and contemporary parallels is bound less to an impulse toward York, Ig68) pp. 57-g6.
encyclopaedic documentation than to a goal of mapping out the historical
dynamic informing a specific motif or symbol. His essay on Manet, for
example, which links Manet's Dijezmer S1l1" l'Herbe to Marcantonio Raimon-
di's engraving of the Judgement of Paris, attends to the ways in which Manet
has transformed the meaning of the motif, and the significance of that trans-
formation as a microcosm of the more general impact of modernity.34 The 34 - vVarburg, 'Manets "Dejeuner sur
I'Herbe". Die vorpragende Funktion
primitive phobias expressed in the original version of the motif, together Elementargottheiten fur die Entwicklung
with the violent associations of the myth of Paris and Helen, contrast with moclernen Naturgefuhls', in Kosmopolis der
its function in Manet's painting as an image of the urban leisure of Wissenschaft. Ernst Robert Curt;lls mId das
r~1a>'bllrg Institllte, ed. Dieter Wuttke
modernity, albeit replete with classical connotations. Indeed one can extend
(Baden Baden, Ig8g) pp. 260-72.
vVarburg's analysis by drawing on subsequent analyses of the rise of absent-
mindedness in modernity. As Jonathan Crary has pointed out, in the latter
half of the nineteenth century there was a growing concern with perceptual
disorders such as aphasia and agnosia, and with the general problem of

35 - Jonathan Crary, 'Unbinding Vision', attentiveness. 35 Specifically, the period in question appears to have been
October, 68 (1994) pp. 21-44
marked by a decline in attentiveness, and for Crary no artist captured this
phenomenon more comprehensively than Manet. In paintings such as In the
ConseTvatoT.J! and On the Balcony a recurrent feature is an absent-minded lack
of engagement between the central figures. This indifference characteristic
of the late nineteenth century can be contrasted all the more with what
Warburg took to be the fundamental feature of primitive cognition, namely
fear. And it acts as one more marker of the process of cognitive development
expressed, for Warburg, in a variety of motivic transformations in visual
Straddling the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Warburg embraces
both the genetic history characteristic of nineteenth-century scholarship and
also the synchronic spatial analysis characteristic of the twentieth century. I
have stressed the role of diachronic transformation in vVarburg's thinking,
but this must not be at the expense of his use of spatial metaphors, which
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occupy a central place in his writing. I have already outlined the terms by
which Warburg compares Northern and Southern appropriations of
antiquity in the Renaissance, as marked by either the presence or lack of a
sense of historical distance from the classical world. It is the emergence of
this sense of a historical space that characterizes the Renaissance for
Warburg, a characterization which Panofsky later formulated more system-
36 - See Panofsky, Renaissance and atically.3 6 The metaphor of space thus plays a significant role in Warburg's
Renascences in Western Art (London, 1970).
analysis of the cultures of the Renaissance in Northern and Southern
Europe, but it plays a much broader role in his cultural psychology, which I
shall explore shortly. In this regard his most succinct formulation occurs in
the opening of his Introduction to Mnemo5.-vne, his projected pictorial atlas,
where he states that 'One may designate the conscious creation of distance
between oneself and the external world as the basic act of human
37" 'lvlnernujyne Introduction [Final civilization .. .'.37 Civilization is thus founded on the creation of a psychic
Version]" p. 2.
space, and it is the absence or presence of this space which also underlies the
regime of representation that oscillates between mimetic and semiotic. The
connection between the two for Warburg is evident in one of his many
unpublished notes from 1929, in which he writes of 'The loss of metaphorical
distance - Replacement by the magical and monstrous confusion of image
38 - Warburg, 'Grisaille Mantegna', and spectator'.3 8 We are thus already confronted with the psychological
Warburg Archive, No. 102.5, {sec}8.
basis of War burg's iconology, and it is thus appropriate to discuss this issue

The psychology of the subject

In the Introduction to lvlnemoS)me \l\Tarburg writes;
The characterization of the restoration of antiquity as the result of the recent
appearance of a consciousness of historical facts and as carefree artistic
empathy, remains an inadequate descriptive evolutionary theory, unless one
simultaneously dares to descend into the deep human spiritual compulsion and
become enmeshed in the timeless strata of the material. Only then does one
reach the mint that coins the expressive values of pagan emotion which stem
39 - 'Mnemosyne Introduction [Final from primal orgiastic experience: thiasotic tragedy.39
Version]" p. 9.
This passage makes explicit th~ grounding of an understanding of Renais-
sance culture in what Warburg perceives to be mechanisms of the human
psyche. The clearest examples of the application of this notion are to be
found in his essay on 'Francesco Sassetti's Last Injunctions to His Sons',40 40 - ''''arburg, Reuewal, pp. 223-62.
4 [ - 'Sandro Botticelli,' in Renewal,
his psychological sketch of Botticelli, 41 or his various published and unpu b-
PP157 6.J..
lished writings on astrology.4 0 The roots of this psychological interest are 42 - Alongside the well-known study of
various, including the emerging field of psychological aesthetics in the latter astrology in Lutheran Germany are other
texts such as the lecture Ober astrologische
part of the nineteenth century, the 'intellectualist' orientation of much
Druckwerke aus alter und ncuer Zeit'.
nineteenth-century anthropology, together with a more general sense in Warburg Archive, No. 81.2.
vVarburg's time, across a wide range of cultural discourses, of the unstable
nature of human subjectivity. The first of these revolves around the critical
responses of philosophers such as Robert Vischer, Theodor Lipps, or August
Schmarsow to the formalist theories of Johann Herbart and Robert Zimmer-
mann. The second can be seen in the emerging field of anthropology, and
the third includes the psychological researches of figures as diverse as Freud,
Wundt and Charcot and also Georg Simmel's analyses of the neurotic
condition of modern subjectivity, or the interest in dreams and the uncon-
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scious of Karl Scherner and even, as Sigrid Schade has pointed out, the
literary avant-garde infin de siecle Paris.+3 I shall discuss each in turn. 43 - Schade, 'Charcot and the Spectacle of
the Hysterical Body. The "pathos
The most prominent exponent of formalist aesthetics in the mid-
formula" as an aesthetic sta,ging of
nineteenth century, Robert Zimmermann, developed a theory of aesthetic psychiatric discourse - a blind spot in the
experience that both simplifies and fortifies Kant's original theory of reception onVarburg', Art Histo~)', 18/4
judgement, drawing in particular on the latter's notion of aesthetic disinter- (1994) PP499-5I7

estedness. In the second volume of his General Aesthetics he argues that

aesthetic experience is based on 'the completed presentation of the content
of representation' ('das vollendete Vorstellen des Vorstellungsinhaltes').H 44 - Robert Zimmermann, Allgemeine
AeJtiutik als Formwissenschaft (Vienna,
On the assumption that desire is motivated by incompleteness and lack,
1865), Vol. II, p. 18.
Zimmermann therefore argues that in aesthetic experience 'all subjective
affects, hope, longing, love and hate die away' .45 He openly acknowledges 45 - Ibid., p. 19

that this notion of completeness gives his theory of aesthetic experience a

classical basis; its general validity stems from the fact, he argues, that 'The
area of the classical is the "universally human," and that of the romantic is
the individual, national and historical'.-I G 46 - Ibid., p. 97.

Zimmermann's model of aesthetic experience becomes even more abstract

than that of Kant, and it was in response to this empty generality that a
number of counter theories were put forward, of which perhaps the best
known is Robert Vischer's theory of empathy.n At the core of Vischer's 47 - An account of the general
background to Vischer can be found in
theory, as formulated in his essay of 1873 on 'The Optical Sense of Form', is
Hermann Glockner, 'Robert Vischer unci
the fundamental role of affective, or empathic, engagement with the object die Krisis der Geisteswissenschaften', in his
of judgement. 48 In opposition to Zimmermann's disengaged aesthete is the Friedrich Theodo, Viselzer und das 19.
Jah'hlmdert (Berlin, 193 I) pp. 168-269.
empathic spectator who mentally projects his or her own carnal experience
48. Robert Vischer, 'On the Optical
onto the aesthetic object. Although it is Vischer whose formulation has Sense of Form', in Empathy, Form and Space:
become best known, indeed was acknowledged as such by 'Varburg, the P1"Obiems in German Aesthetics 1873-1893, eds
motif of empathy, or of affective engagement, became widespread in the Harry Francis Mallgrave and Eleftherios
Ikonomou (Santa Monica, 1994) pp.89-
aesthetic theory of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In his
Outline of Aesthetics Hermann Lotze, for example, writes that 'we cannot
mentally represent the most abstract forms ... without ... transposing
ourselves into their content and sympathetically enjoying the peculiarly
coloured pleasure or pain which corresponds to it' .-19 Similarly Theodor 49 - Lotzc, Qutiine qj'Aesthetics. trans. and
ed. G. Ladd (Boston, 1885) p. 20.
Lipps opens his FOllndations if Aesthetics of 1903 with the assertion that
'Aesthetics is the science of beauty ... An object is called beautiful because it
gIves rise to, or is able to give rise to, a specific feeling within me .... This

314 l\IATTHE\\' RAMPLr~Y

effect is ... a psychological fact ... aesthetics is therefore a psychological
50 - Theodor Lipps, (;rundlegulIg de/" discipline.'5 0 This feeling is later identified as a feeling of desireY This
A,sthetik (Hamburg and Leipzig, 1903),
psychological turn made itself felt in the field of art history, too. The art
p. I.
51 - Ibid., p. I I. historian August Schmarsow, a contemporary of'tVarburg's, openly identi-
fied aesthetic theory with psychology in his essay on 'Art History and Collec-
52 - Schmarsow, 'Kunstwissenschaft und tive Psychology' Y Here Schmarsow posited the notion of a 'psychology of
Vlkerpsychologie', ::'eitschrijifi;1" Asthetik
art' as a vital link between collective psychology and more traditional
lIlId .ll!gemeine h"n1lStwissensehajt, 2 (1907)

pp. 305-39 and 469-500. notions of art history. The importance of this link stemmed, for Schmarsow,
from the general understanding of art as 'a creative confrontation ['Ausei-
nandersetzung'J between the individual and the world they are placed in ...
thus the result of all true art is a growth in the desire for existence and the
53 - Ibid., p. 3 10 . value of life' .53 Common to all these positions is the rejection of the formalist
notion of the autonomous aesthetic subject. Instead, aesthetic experience
and artistic production are viewed as psychic processes of engagement with
both the aesthetic object and, in the case of art, with the world represented
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by the art object. Schmarsow's term 'Auseinandersetzung', which denotes a

form of debate or argument is of significance here, for it appears, too, III
54 - See, ff)r example, Af/lellw.~y"" VVarburg's notion of art. 54
Introduction [Final Version]', p. 11.
Contemporary with the rIse of psychological aesthetics was the rIse of
anthropology with its predominantly 'intellectualist' reading of so-called
primitive cultures. A central figure in this regard was Edward Tylor. Tylor's
Primitive CultuJ"f of 1871, widely read in Britain and Germany in the late
nineteenth century, was a seminal text for a generation of anthropologists.
For Tylor, 'lVIan, in a low stage of culture, very commonly believes that
between the object and the image of it there is a real connexion, which does
not arise from a mere subjective process in the mind of the observer, and
that it is accordingly possihle to communicate an impression to the original
55 Sir Edward Tylor, R,.H'"rr!w.r in/o lhe through the copy.'55 From this stems the practice of magic with its logic of
Early Histolj oj Mankil1d, [I 865J, 3rd edn
occult sympathies, a belief according to which 'association of thought must
(London, 1878) p. 117.
56 - Tylor, Primitiz'r Cultllre (London, involve similar connexion in reality' .5 6 This logic survived into the 'old
1871), VA!. I, p. 116. medical theory known as the "Doctrine of Signatures", which supposed that
plants and minerals indicated by their external characters the diseases for
57 .. Tylor, Rrswrclze.r, p. 123. which nature has intended them as remedies'.\) In contrast, the achievement
of cultural advancement was evident through the ability to distinguish
between representations and things and, ultimately, between the self and the
objective world. A similar conception was put forward hy the German-
58 - Boas, The 1\/ind q( Primiti"" AI all (New American anthropologist Franz Boas in The ivIind oj Primitive lvIan.\s Boas
York, 1924). Boas's book was based Dn
was of particular significance in this context. Not only largely responsible for
public lectures given in 1910/1 I, and other
published material dating Ifom the 1890s. importing European anthropology into America, he may also have influ-
A German edition was published as i'lllt"r enced 'tVarburg's decision to study the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico in
.md Raas (Berlin, 1922). 1896.59
59 -- For an account Df\Varburg's
expedition see Benedetta Cestelli Guidi The rise of empathy theory and psychological aesthetics forms a specific
and Nicholas Mann, eds, Pholographs a/ Iii" case of a more general growth in interest in psychology in the latter half of
Frontier, J~l' Warburg ill America 1895-1896 the nineteenth century. Initially such psychology was hardly distinguishable
(LondDn, 1998). Sec also Ulrich Raulff,
'Nachwort', in Ab), Warburg,
from philosophy. Indicative of this was the highly influential work by
Schlallgenrit"al. Ei" Reisr'ber;cht (Berlin, Clemens Brentano, Ps,),chologJljrom all Empirical Standpoint, puhlished in 1874,
199 6 , pr 51-95' which, for all its highlighting of empirical psychology, was largely a study in
the philosophy of mind. Nonetheless, Brentano's work signalled a gradual
shift in the theoretical interest in consciousness to non-conscious states, such
as dreaming or sleeping, or states where the fragility of subjective rationality
is manifest, such as hysterical and neurotic conditions. Jonathan Crary has
outlined how, during the course of the nineteenth century, the substitution
of a material, psychological notion of the spectator for the sovereign
observer of the camera obscura served to deprive the subject of its rational
autonomy.50 As early as 1833 Johannes Muller's Handbook of Human Physiol- 60 - Jonathan Crary, TechniqZl"" of the
Observer. On Vision and Modernity ;n the
ogy had, according to Crary, theorized an observer whose processes of
Nineteenth Centmy (Cambridge, MA, 1992).
perception were contingent on a variety of empirical, physiological states,
thus rendering the basis of cognition 'unstable and mobile'."! lVIore 61 - Ibid., p. 91.
generally, too, the growth of psychology underlined the instability of
rational subjective identity; in his Lectures on Human and Animal Ps.vchology the
pioneer of experimental psychology Wilhelm "Vundt emphasizes the inter-
connection of cognition and affectivity, or the permeability of the division
between voluntary and involuntary, instinctual actions. 62 62 - vVilhelm vVundt, Lectllres all Hllman and
Allimal P~v,"hology, trans. J. E. Creighton
One theme of considerable importance was the recognition that such and E. B. Titchener (London, 1896).
subjective instability manifests itself to a heightened degree under the condi-
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tions of modern life, most obviously through the widespread appearance of

neurosis. Freud openly linked neurosis with the conditions of repression in
modernity, and in doing so draws on a range of authors that had already
made this connection, including Binswanger, Erb, Ehrenfels and Krafft-
Ebbing."3 The sociologist Georg Simmel drew similar conclusions, most 63 - Sigmund Freud, , "Civilised" Sexual
Morality and Modern Nervous Illness', in
famously, perhaps, in his essay on 'The Metropolis and Mental Life', in
The Stalldard Edit;on of the Complete
which he characterizes the metropolitan subject as neurotic, a state brought Psychological Writings q[ Sigmund Freud
about by the 'atrophy of the individual and the hypertrophy of objective (London, 1959), IX, pp. 181-204.
culture' .6+ At the root of Simmers view of the metropolitan individual is a 64 - Simmel, 'Die Grossstadte und das
Gcistesleben', in Simmel, Aufsiit;;.e and
psychological theory according to which the subject is torn between conflict- Abhandlungen 19a1-lga8 (Frankfurt am
ing impulses towards mimetic assimilation and differentiation. 55 In Simmel's Main, 1995), I, pp. 116-31.
theory one sees a parallel with vVarburg's account; the creation of a mental 65 - See, for example, Simmel's essay 'Zur
Psychologie der Mode', in Simmel,
space which, for vVarburg, counts as the fundamental act of the civilizing
A'ifsiit;;:.e lind Abhalldillngen 1894-1900
process, constitutes an overcoming of the mimetic impulse in which such a (Frankfurt am Main, 1992) pp. 105-14.
distance is eclipsed. In one of the notes from his 'Basic Fragments for a
(Monistic) Psychology of Art' vVarburg identifies this as a central concern:

The acquisition of the feeling of distance between subject and object lis] the
task of so-called cultivation and the criterion of progress of the human race. The
proper object of Cultural History would be the description of the prevalent
state ofreflectivity.66 66 - Warburg, 'Grundlegende
Bruchstiicke zu einer monistischen
vVarburg's historicizing of this subjective tension clearly owes much to his Kunstpsychologie', Warburg Archive, No.
interest in anthropology. Consequently his analysis of Florence in the +3.2, 3 28 .

Quattrocento should be seen as a psychological anthropology of the Renais-

sance. The creation of historical distance from antiquity and the growth of
antiquarian interest in the past thus constitute important markers of the
mental and cultural progress.
I wrote earlier of Warburg's interest in regimes of representation. Specifi-
cally, he distinguishes between mimetic (or symbolic) and semiotic represen-
tation. In the jvfnemo.l~vne Introduction he sees it as central to Art History
that it should analyse the 'circulation between a cosmology of images and
67 - '}'1ne1ll0~ne Introduction [Final
one of signs', 6) where signs, most especially in the form of allegorical images,
Version]" p. 2.
exemplify the same achievement of mental distance or detachment.
Warburg's 'iconology of the interval' gains its force from the psychological
dynamic that underpins the production of varying representational types.

This is what is most distinctive about vVarburg's method and yet what is
also most problematic. This becomes apparent once his rdiance on notions
of collective psychology and memory are subjected to closer scrutiny.
As I stated above, vVarburg's thought draws on a tradition in which the
psychology of the individual is projected onto the larger social collective.
This is most apparent in anthropological theories of primitive culture, the
most important aspect of which is the emphasis on the idea of primitive
'mentality' or psychology. In certain respects this conflation of the indivi-
dual and the social can be traced back to Hegel. Although this intellectual
debt remains implicit, there is a elear antecedent in Hegel's conflation of
ontogcncsis and phylogencsis, and in his mapping of thc parallels bct\NCCn
the genesis of self-consciousness and the evolution of the social Geist. This
notion of a collective primitive psychology has been tl1f object of consider-
able criticism within anthropology. E. E. Evans-Pritchard, and more
recently G. E. R. Lloyd, have highlighted the difficulties that arise with the
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58 - E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Theories of idea of the primitive mind. 08 In particular, such theories tend to focus em
Primili", Rellgioll (Oxford, 1965); C. E. R.
religious ritual beliefs and practices, and "Varburg is no exception to this
Lloyd, Dm~vsti[yi"g l\Ientalitirs (Cambridge,
199 0 ).
rule. His lecture based on his experience with the Pueblo Indians of South
'tVestern America focuses almost exclusively on the variety of ritual dances
he witnesses. Specifically, his assertion that the Indians 'stand on the middle
ground between magic and logos '" a culture of touch and a culture of
59 - Warburg, Il11agesjrolJ1 Ihe Regioll q(the thought' G9 is based on his analysis of the role of religious symbolism where,
Pueblo I"dial/s, p. 17. for example, complex meteorological phenomena such as lightning are
expressed through the concrete symbol of the snake, and where the snake
dance invoking the weather god involves imitation of the snake. However,
as Evans-Pritchard suggested nearly 50 years ago, while such purportedly
primitive religions rely heavily on concrete symbols, the symbols themselves
may well function as little more than signs or indices; hence the snake-
70 - "IVhen Nuer say of rain or lightning symbol may simply operate as a metaphor. 70 Furthermore, attention to the
that it is God they Clre makin'S an elliptical
specific question of religion ignores the greater part of the social life of so-
statement. "Vhat is understood is not thal
the thing in itself is spirit but that it is called 'primitives', which relies on just the same form of instrumental reason
what we would call a medium or supposedly characteristic only of modernity. In his study of the Azande
manifestation or sign of divine activity .. .' Evans-Pritchard highlights the fact that supposedly sacred spaces and
Evans-Pritchard, Nuer Rdigioll (Oxford,
objects are frequently treated by the Azande as normal profane artefacts
195 6 ) p. 1~5
71 - Evans-Pritchard, TI-ilchcrajl, "fagic IlI,,1 and places.7 1 The theory of primitive mentality would have to explain such
Oracles aillong the A"lll1dl' (Oxford, 19371. contradictions as a manifestation of schizophrenia, and it is not at all clear
how an entire society or culture could be regarded as schizophrenic; often
the use of such vocabulary in this case serves simply to highlight the
presence of some cultural contradiction, rather than to make a substantive
psychoanalytic point. More generally, too, the notion of primitive, indeed
any collective mentalities rests to a large extent on the assumption of beliefs
held by the culture being studied, belief in demons, in magic, in occult
sympathies, in identity of representation and object and so forth. But it has
been argued by Rodney Needham that the use of 'belief' as a term of cross-
72 - Rodney Needham, Belief, Lallguage cultural analysis may be severely problematic.)" Not only is it almost impos-
a"d E"pt'I"iencl' (Cambridge, 1972). sible to identify any specific mental state corresponding to believing, but
also the very concept of belief is particular to vVestern culture, having few
counterparts in other cultures. I shall return to this theme later.
vVarburg's own attempt to construct an anthropological psychology of the
Renaissance seems just as problematic, therefore, as those psychological and
anthropological theories on which he was relying. Ifwe return to the tapestry
depicting Alexander the Great's legendary journeys to the top of the heavens
and the bottom of the sea, the tapestry would have to be read as the projec-
tion of two competing mentalities, one a monstrous primitive imagination
that still believes in griffins and the fiery realm above the ether, and the other
a technocratic reason that concerns itself with constructing siege artillery. To
read this as symbol of a cultural schizophrenia seems to contradict what
vVarburg himself emphasized, namely, the ease with which two different
pictorial regimes sit alongside each other within the one image. There seems
none of the genuine conflict associated with clinical schizophrenia.
The weakness of vVarburg's reading bccomcs apparent, too, in his essay
on Francesco Sassetti. Here vVarburg attends to the paradox that while
Sassetti appears to be the embodiment of Burckhardt's notion of autono-
mous, rational Renaissance man, 'the "lVIiddle Ages" ... seems not only to
persist in the habitual religious sentiments of his vita (ontemplatilla, but to
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determine his l]ita actil]a'.7:J And this is evident in the fact that he continues to 73 - 'Varburg, Rem",ai, p. 239
hold a variety of superstitious beliefs, including belief in the goddess
Fortuna. Warburg notes, 'both Sassetti and [Giovanni] Rucellai reveal how
in that upheaval of subjective sensibility they aspired to a new balance of
energies: they faced the world with a heightened assurance founded on two
still-compatible forms of the cult of memory, Christian-ascetic and antique-
heroic' H In other words, they symbolize the peculiar mixture of worldliness 7-J. - Ibid., p. 2+0.

and religious devotioll characteristic of the Florentine Renaissance.

There are two ways of reading vVarburg's essay. Either he is asserting that
Sassetti was schizophrenic, or he is claiming that Sassetti was the symptom
of a 'transitional' mentality. The first seems hardly tenable, since vVarburg
at all times sees Sassetti as the symptom of a wider cultural phenomenon
rather than being interested in an individual diagnostic case. In the case of
second reading, and vVarburg's reference to a 'transitional phase in subjec-
tive sensibility' supports it, the fundamental question has to be posed
regarding what a transitional mentality night actually be. If anything, what
vVarburg's paper shows is that the Quattrocento was a time of transition in
which competing men tali tics clashed, with the new eventually superseding
the older. However, \Varburg's assumption of a mental conflict depends on
one crucial assumption, namely, that Sassetti actually believed in the goddess
Fortuna or, if we return to the Alexander tapestry, that the owners believed
in the Alexander myth. vVarburg's reading of the Renaissance thus raises
the same problems of belief impinging on any anthropological account. It
could be objected at this point that in the Renaissance 'belief' did have a
central role, and that therefore \Varburg's interpretation would be immune
to the kinds of criticism put forward by Needham. However, as Wilfred
Smith has pointed out, the notion of belief as an 'opinion' or 'presupposition'
only emerged in European culture ajtt'/" the Renaissance. i5 Although at the 75 Willi-eel Cantwell Smith, Belie/and
Histo])' (Charlottesville, 1977).
end of the seventeenth century John Locke characterized belief as 'the
admitting or receiving any proposition for true ... without certain
knowledge', Francis Bacon at the beginning of the century had written of
'the belief of truth', meaning 'holding truth dear'.)" In general, therefore, 76 Both eited in Byron Good, llltdicill",
Rat;al/alit)' alld E.\pniellC<' (Cambridge,
before the late seventeenth century 'belief' was connected with notions of
199+) p. 16.
holding dear, pledging allegiance, and this was the case not only in English
but also in Latin, for example, where 'credo in unum Deum' was a

statement of allegiance to God rather than belief in His existence. Thus even
for the Renaissance, reference to belief (in the modern sense) has to bc
exercized, ifat all, with extreme caution, and this also affects the psychologi-
cal anthropology dependent on the assumption of belief. I shall return to the
consequences of this problem in the conclusion.

An essential part of vVarburg's analysis of the 'oscillation between a theory
of causation based on signs' was his theory of collective memory. The origins
of his ideas on memory in the work of Richard Semon and Ti to Vignoli are
77 - Gombrich in particular gjves a full well documented. i i The heart of his theory rests on the notion that visual
>!ccount on'Varburg's debt to Richard
symbols function as archives of the mental state of the producer. Hence a
Semon and Tito Vignoli, Gombrich, op.
cit. whole range of cognitive and emotional states somehow imprint themselves
on the visual symbol, in the form of 'pathos formulae', the term he used to
denote representations of the bodily expression of human affectivity. The
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symbol itself he referred to as an 'engram' or 'dynamogram'. As a conse-

quence of his interest in genealogy, vVarburg was concerned above all with
the original impression of a variety of visual symbols which, being traced
back to primitive origins, almost always have their roots in a Dionysian state
of primal fear. In addition, Warburg held that unmediated exposure to a
primitive engram would reawaken the same emotions, primarily fear, that
fuelled their original creation. An added dimension is thus given to his
iconological method. I have already stressed the importance of motivic
transformation to Warburg's approach, and the significance of that process
now becomes clearer, inasmuch as it is concerned with the reception of a c.harged cultural legacy. As I have shown, for vVarburg the
Renaissance is less a process of simple repetition of antiquity than one of
appropriation, and likewise cultural memory is more than simply a matter of
78 - See for example, 'Italian Art ancl
International Astrology in the Palazzo neutral recollection. In one sense, for each generation of artists the task is
Schifanoia in Ferrara', In '(Ther simple: either to sublimate the primitive memories which, like a stubborn
astrologische Druckwerke aus alter und residue, have become attached to inherited symbols and motifs, or to regress
neuer Zeit', \Varburg cites (pp. 34): The
canopy of the heavens is a g'enuine product
and allow those memories to be reactivated. In this regard one recurrent
of Greek culture, pl"Oduced by the dual gift focus of interest was the role of astrology; the figures of the zodiac can be
of the ancient Greeks for concrete poetic traced back to primitive origins, when they were actual deities that were
intuition and abstract mathematical
held to influence mundane events in a very concrete manner. Subsequently
ima.gination ... through empathy they
brought order to the infinitely distant they were sublimated, first, into mythic allegories, then into mere naviga-
shimmering planetary bodies, by gatbering tional aids,?3
together individual stars into groups, in
Warburg's conception of collective memory is highly suggestive, and
the silhouettes of which it was believed
could be seen creatures and things ... the has been compared with vValter Benjamin's philosophy of history, to
,""pacity for abstract mathematical which the notion of remembrance is central.7 9 At thc same time, however,
imagination further permitted the it also invites comparison with the work of a student of Durkheim and
development of this pictorial schema into a
calcul"ble system of points ... which made
contemporary of vVarburg, Maurice Halbwachs, whose own work on
it possible to ascen"in their place and an)' collective memory throws up some of the difficulties attending vVarburg's
change oflocatiol1 by means of an notion. In his study of 1925 on Les Cadres Sociaux de la Afimoire Halbwachs
idealised system of lines.'
interprets collective memory as a reflection of the society producing it
79 - An illuminating comparison is made
in Roland Kany, l"l"cnw.~wzr als Progralll.lII rather than of embedded psychological trauma. RD Thus it explores the
(Stutlgc,-rr, 1987). See too my Rcmembrallc. social factors that determine the character of social memory; chief among
of Things Past. 011' AI. Wllrburg alld
these is the fact that all memories bear an intimate relation to other
TValtn Benjamin (Wiesbaden, forthcoming).
80 - ]\,faurice Halbwachs, Le.\" Cadre.\" memories, many of which are publicly shared social facts. As Halbwachs
Socia".\ de la /vIimoire (Paris, 1928). argues:
Every memory, no matter how private it may be, even the memory of events to
which we were the only witness, the memory of thoughts and inexpressible
feelings, is linked to a whole collection of notions that many others possess ...
when we summon LIp a memory ... we connect it to others that surround it: in
truth it is because all around us there are other memories connected to it,
inherent in the objects and beings of the milieu we inhabit, or in us ourselves:
reference points in space and time, conceptions of history, geography,
biography, politics ... 'A' 8, - Ibid., pp. 51-2.

Halbwachs is thus concerned with the means by which social memory is

sustained and passed on, and this has been the central focus of subsequent
scholarship on lhe subjecl. A recurrent feature has been the function of
patterns of repetition in ensuring the preservation of social memory. These
range from repetitive ritual ceremonies to the use of stereotypic formulae in
the oral histories of pre-literate societies. 8" 82 On the subject of collective memory
see Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember
It was also recognized in antiquity that memory requires training, cultiva- (Cambridge, 1989);james Fentress and
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tion and various aides-menwire. vVhen in the twelfth century Abbot Suger of Chris Wickham, SOlial Afemo~)' (Oxford,
St Denis stated that 'mens hebes ad verum per materialia surgit' ['the young 199 2 ).
mind achieves truth through concrete things'] he was expressing a common-
place inherited from Roman antiquity that recognized the necessity of
external prompts in the guidance of human knowledge and memory.8:l 83 Cited in Panofskv, 'Abbol Suger ofSt
Denis', in AJean;/lg ill the Visual Arts, p. 164.
Numerous studies have analysed the vanous mnemomc techniques
developed in antiquity and which were to prove highly influential in the
Middle Ages and the Renaissance.8~ As is well known, three canonical texts, 84 - The mDst obvious is perhaps Frances
Yates, The Art oIAlemol)' (London, 1966.1.
Quintilian's Institl/tio aratoria, the anonymous Ad HeTennium, and Cicero's De Sec, also, jacques Le Goff, History and
OratoTe established the mnemotechnics of antiquity, central to which was the Aiemory, trans. Steven Rendall and
employment of an organizing system that distinguished between recollection Elizabeth Claman (New York, 1992), esp.
pp. 51-99; Aleida Assmann and Dietrich
of things and words, and highlighted the use of images in facilitating the
Harth, eds, l\Jne/JlO~l'J/.e. Formell 'lJId Funkt;on
process of remembrance. In short it was a highly developed technique which del' Kiliturellen Erillnerwlg (Frankfurt am
implied that in the absence of such a system the process of recollection Main, 1993).
would be hindered or even not take place.
In contrast with such studies of the institutions of cultural memory and
the techniques of recollection, vVarburg offers no explanation as to how
primitive meanings are 'remembered', or what the vehicle of such transmis-
sion might be. vVarburg could be defended in one way, for as Jan Vansina
has emphasized, social memory can be articulated through bodily gestures,
and vVarburg was particularly drawn to the meaning of gesture and its
representation. as At the same time, however, Warburg, influenced by 85 - jan Vansina, 'InitiatiDn Rituals of the
Bushong', .'!Fica, XXV (1955), pp. 138-
Charles Darwin, appeared to neglect the extent to which the meaning of
gesture is socially and historically mediated, and thus not a reliable vehicle
for the preservation of primal memories. lV10reover, because of his intellec-
tual debt to Semon and Vignoli, vVarburg assumed that primitive memories
could be rea wakened by unmedia ted exposure to their originary visual
symbols, as if there were some form of trans-historical 'natural' representa-
tion. According to this picture, while the Renaissance is characterized as an
appropriation of the legacy of the classical cultural, it also consists of a
process of social remembrance, in which the renewed encounter with the
artefacts of antiquity brings about a recollection of the primitive Dionysian
impulses that went into their making. His lecture on 'The Entry of the
Idealising Classical Style in the Painting of the Early Renaissance' analyses
the impact of classical sarcophagi and Roman triumphal sculpture, together


with the later discovery of work such as the Hellenistic Laocoon sculpture.
This raises a difficulty, however, for W'arburg's general theory. As Warburg
knew only too well, though the Quattrocentro witnessed an enormous
expansion in the knowledge of classical culture, including the widespread
dissemination of Greek and Roman texts, a knowledge of classical antiquity
86 - See Panofsky, Renai,'sance al1d was continuous prior to this period. 86 In Italy its monuments were ever
Renascences ill IVcstern Art (New York,
present, most particularly in Rome, from the Arch of Constantine to the
1969). This issue was pursued most
systematically by the Warburgian scholar Colosseum to Trajan's Column, but, inexplicably, it was only during the
E. R. Curtius, whose European Literature al1d course of the Quattrocento that the authentic Dionysian and Apollinian
lhe Latin j\fiddle AgES, trans. W. Trask
bases of antiquity were 'remembered', in contrast with the various degraded
(London, 1953) foregrounds the continuity
of motifs, or topoi fi'om classical literature versions that had persisted through the Middle Ages. 'Where a contemporary
throughout the medieval period. commentator might look for relevant social, economic or other historical
factors that underlay this difference, vVarburg fails to account for the
mechanisms that brought about this shift in the manner of recollection. And
in any case this notion also contradicts his theory of the engram, according
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to which direct exposure always communicates its full psychic impact.

vVarburg does not explain how this full psychic impact was somehow
deflected during the course of the Middle Ages. vVarburg's reading of the
Laocoon, though an important part of his critique of the view of antiquity
stemming from Winckelmann, also serves to undermine his own position.
For Winckelmann's 'misreading' of the group, emphasizing its tranquillity,
should, according to vVarburg's notion of the engram, not even be possible.
And in any case, vVarburg's own reading of the group, or of Botticelli's
paintings, for example, depends on mediation by a vast array of pictorial
and textual material. The concept of the unmediated encounter with the
engram thus does not square either with 'Varburg's method or with his
wider historical picture.
vVarburg's interest in social memory is thus deeply questionable as it
stands, but can be retrieved if reformulated in the light of Freud, in partiCll-
lar, his paper of 1914 on 'Remembering, Repeating and Working
87 - Sigmund Freud, Standard Editio1l, XII, Through' .87 In this paper Freud distinguishes between repetition-compul-
PP147-5 6 .
sion and recollection; repressed traumatic experiences are not remembered
but rather acted out, without the patient realizing that the experience is
being repeated. The greater the trauma, the more likely it is that the
repressed experience will surface through a process of compulsive repetition
than through a genuine act of remembrance. As Freud notes, 'the greater
the resistance, the more extensively will acting out (repetition) replaces
88 - Ibid., p. 151. remembering' .88 Thus, though the compulsion to repeat reiterates a
repressed, forgotten, past experience, it functions within a perpetual present,
acting in the place of memory. For Freud genuine recollection arises
through the phenomenon of transference, 'the awakening of the memories,
which appear without difficulty, as it were, after the resistance has been
89 - Ibid., p. 155 overcome'.89
Freud's discussion is here concerned with the specific issue of clinical
treatment, but in other works his account of trauma, repression and repeti-
tion functions as a frame of analysis for wider cultural phenomena. Freud
frequently returned to the question, 'what are the ways and means
employed by one generation in order to hand on its mental states to the
90 - Freud, 'Totem and Taboo', in next one?'.9 0 In '.Moses and Monotheism' the emergence of Judaism and its
Standard Edition, XIII, p. 158.
eventual supplanting by Christianity are interpreted by analogy with the

psychopathology of the individuapr In this his most sustained discussion of 91 - Freud, Stand"rd Edition, XXIII, pp. 7-
collective memory Freud argues that 'the archaic heritage of human beings
comprises ... memory-traces of the experience of earlier generations', with
the further stipulation that repetition is one of the two mechanisms
whereby such memories enter into the collective unconsciousY Implicit in 92 Ibid., p. 99.
this later account is also the distinction between archaic heritage and
historical recollection of tradition based on the vl"Orking-through of
repressed memories.
I believe vVarburg was struggling towards a similar view of social
memory, though using the completely inadequate vocabulary of Semon and
Vignoli. Specifically, he distinguishes between the compulsive repetition of
the primitive psychic engram, and its sublimation into a symbolic cultural
narrative. Barbarism thus stands at the root of all culture, and through the
polarity of Athens and Alexandria, \Varburg dramatized the constant
tension between sublimation and regression. As he notes, 'The legacy of
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antiquity offers the artist, through the medium of historical recollection,

experiences of a passionate, active or passive orientation towards the world,
which are just as essential a part of the modern social psyche as childhood
recollections are to the life of the ad ul f. 9~ 93 Warburg, 'Gnmdbegrific', \Yarburg
Archive No. 102.+, Entry [or Q/5/1929.
If we follow Freud, however, it becomes apparent that another aspect of
vVarburg's account requires modifying. Strictly speaking, the regression into
primitive barbarism at the root of all engrams does not constitute a process
of remembering, but rather one leading to oblivion. True collective
memory, in contrast, only emerges through the process of sublimation, and
not through a process of regression. Collective memory is thus always the
construction of a particular social narrative, and this also indicates the role
of collective memory in the construction of a social, historical identity, in
opposition to repetition-compulsion. Ultimately, this also has to apply to the
inherited forms of classical antiquity. Far from presenting a 'degree zero' of
culture, as vVarburg often appears to believe, they are themselves sublimated
memories, mythic narratives of an original experience that can never be
recalled as sllch.
vVarburg's failure to distinguish between these two stems largely from his
reliance on a notion of memory as a form of inscription. As Aleida Assmann
has demonstrated, this stands at the end of a long established tradition that
described memory as an archive, using metaphors of the temple, the library
or, latterly, the book.9~ Freud was himself no exception to this; in particular 9+ - Aleida Assmann, 'Zur Metaphorik
der Erinnerung', in A~~mann and Harth,
he attempted to explain the function of memory through comparison with
eels, ,\I}/ElIlo.~l'}/e. Fonnen lind FlInk!ioncn der
the mystic writing pad. 9 :i However, his own distinction between repetition k,dlllrellen Erinnerung, PI' 13-35
and recollection points towards an alternative model, such as that favoured 95 - Freud, 'A Note on the MystiGd Pad',
in Standard Editioll, XIX, pp. 225-32.
by much contemporary neurological research, which views memory as the
function of neural connections and networks across the entire system, rather
than as a set of imprints stored somewhere in the mind. Such models
conceive of the activity of the memory as a process of construction rather
than one of storage. 9li Such a metaphor also renders the analogy between 96 - Siegfried Schmidt, 'Gedchtnis-
Erzhlen- IelcntiUit', in Assmann and
individual and social, collective memory far less problematic. Cultural
Harth, op. cit., p. 378.
memory consists of a dynamic system, in which inherited narratives,
symbols, icons and motifs are continually assembled and reassembled in
varying configurations, rather than simply being preserved in a storehouse
of inherited meanings and motifs. Of course the nature and function of


cultural memory, and its impact on the understanding of the Renaissance,
still remains to be explored further. However, it is only on the basis of such
an understanding of cultural memory that a credible account can be made
of how the meaning of classical antiquity could vary so much between, for
example, Quattrocento Florence and late medieval Burgundy.

Although it has become the focus of a resurgence of scholarly interest, much
of the thought of Aby VVarburg has now become deeply problematic. In
particular, his reliance on the notion of a collective mentality and his theory
of social memory are open to a wide range of criticisms. In modified form,
however, his work presents a rich legacy, and I shall conclude by outlining
its continuing importance.
I began my analysis of \'Varburg's 'iconology of the interval' by means of
a comparison with Panofsky, drawing particular attention to the importance
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for vVarburg of iconological differences. A crucial distinction between

Pano[~ky and W'arburg is the latter's interest in the effect of historical shifts
on specific historical synchronies. One implication of'Varburg's approach,
especially with regard to the Renaissance, is the recognition of the impor-
tance of historical discontinuities and ruptures, which make themselves felt
in the form of contradictions and paradoxes 'within a culture. A synchronic
analysis that simply registered the presence of ruptures "vi thin a cultural
space or system would be reduced to mere positivism, without any explana-
tory framework, other, perhaps, than regarding rupture as intrinsic to any
symbolic system.
A key element of War burg's iconological analysis is the tracing of the shift
from mimetic to semiotic regimes of representation. The psychological
underpinning to this analysis is suspect, as I have suggested, but shorn of its
problematic psychological basis, such an analysis is still of crucial impor-
tance. I drew attention to parallels with Foucault earlier, and one can
pursue this relation a little further. In The Order of Things Foucault analyses
the role of resemblance in the Renaissance, describing it as the dominant
97 Michd Foucault, TIl, Order of Things logic of representation. 9) Foucault's model is problematic, for, as the work of
(London, 1989). 'I\Tarburg indicates, it is difficult to refer to the regime of representation in
the Renaissance, yet his study does at least indicate how 'I\Tarburg's project
might be developed when shorn of its reliance on collective mentalities.
Although Foucault's book begins with an analysis of Velasquez's Las
Afenill(/s, the remainder focuses on literary forms of representation.
vVarburg's work indicates the way in which a similar analysis of visual repre-
sentation might be undertaken, an area which is in many respects still
98 - Exceptions would bc Hillel Schwartz, under-explored. 98 At the same timc, however, Foucault's approach is
The C"/(,,re of the COp)' : Cambridgc, MA, limited to the kind of positivism referred to earlier. In particular, European
1997); Hans Belting, Likelless alld Pr'SPllcf'
(Chicago, 1987).
culture since the Renaissance appears, for Foucault, to have been consti-
tuted by three monolithic and incommensurable epistemic regimes, which
succeeded each other. As Peter Dews has argued, there is in Foucault no
mechanism for explaining the process of shift from one regime to another,
and this stems from the fact that Foucault has attempted to account for
99 - Peter Dews, 'Foucault and the Frcnch
European intellectual history ahistorically.g9 vVarburg, on the other hand,
Tradition of Historical Epi,tcmology', in
The Limits ojDiml.dla7llml'lli (London, was profoundly aware of the importance of the diachronic axis that inter-
1995) pp. 39-5 8 . sected any specific historical time, expressed through the form of cultural
memory. \Varburg's identification of psychic oscillations as the primary
motor of epistemic change is no longer tenable, but his account does at least
highlight recognition of the fact that the epistemic and representational
regimcs of the past were not as self-contained as Foucault's theory suggests.
\Yarburg based his notion of representational types on an idea of specific
historical mentalities. The idea of a 'mentality', for all its importance in the
history of anthropology, for example, has proved to be deeply questionable.
I raised the difficlll ty earlier of talking of 'men tali ty' in the case of Francesco
Sassetti, in relation to the problem of belief, and a more general critique can
be made of the notion. G. E. R. Lloyd has suggested that the idea of
'mentalities' is better replaced by a notion of 'modes of reasoning'. 100 Lloyd 100 - Lloyd, op. cit. Illotc 68).
argues that it is possible to outline different modes of reasoning, or discursive
strategies, without being committed to the idea of a deeper supporting
mentality. Instead, one can speak of varying discursive contexts, in which
differing forms of reasoning are or are not permitted, or are used for distinct
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purposes. Lloyd's own work on the emergence of Greek science offers

examples of just such an analysis, where the formation of recognizable scien-
tific discourses can be explained without reliance on the speculative supposi-
tion of a mass subjective shift."" For example, in his study Polarirl' and 101 - See Lloyd, j\lagic RcaSOlllllld

Analo.!;.v Lloyd analyses the emergence of two types of argumentation in early EcpaielI(e (C:ambrid~e, 1979).

Greek philosophy which, in the language of vVarburg, could easily be seen

as symptomatic of primitive or enlightened mentalities, being reliant on the
perception of affinities or differences. ln2 Yet as Lloyd demonstrates, these I o~ - PolariJ' and Allalogy. Two 7)peJ of

may be regarded as argumentational strategies, which by no means involve Argumwtatioll ill Ear[J' (;rnk Thollgh.t
(Cambrid~e, 1986).
the attribution of belief, and they are also forms of reasoning still practised
today. \Vhen applied to vVarburg's own focus of interest, the uses of this
procedure seem obvious. The fact that many Renaissance astronomers were
also astrologers and magicians need not be interpreted as the sign of a
cultural pathology, but rather as indicative of the possibility ofa plurality of
modes of reasoning within differing contexts. Again, the analogy with
pictorial practices presents itself, and just as Lloyd analyses the strategic
timction of different modes of reasoning, so it is important to think through
the' possibility of analysing the strategic roles of differing pictorial regimes.
Finally, vVarhurg's account of cultural memory points towards the analysis
of the function of images in the construction ofa cultural memory. Although it
has been recognized that images serve an important role in preserving social
memory, scholarship has not attended to the significance of visual representa-
tions. Instead, the focus has been the function of images within narrative
performances, common examples in Europe being the Homeric poems or epic
poems of the Middle Ages such as the Chanson de Roland or Beowulf. vVarburg
instead turned to visual representations and to a period much closer to our
own. In the Renaissance, the appropriation of antiquity emerges less as a case
of the reactivation of primitive, embedded memories, but rather as a
narrative recollection serving the construction of Florentine identity. In this
regard vVarburg reminds us of the dual possibility of tradition, either as an
amnesiac repetition of the past or as a memorial construction, and it is
through attention to the continuitics and discontinuities of this construction
that his iconology of the interval finds its proper place.