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  • 1 Peter Szondi-Institut für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft, Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, D–14195, Berlin
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Abstract

In 1928, Aby Warburg gave his personal cultural and biographical situation visual form in two cartographical diagrams. Marking important places in his life (Hamburg, Florence, Arizona…), they show Warburg's intellectual parcours and reveal something of his specific way of working and thinking. The first makes a 'narrative’ as well as the act of ‘narrating’ visible, i.e. regarding the diagram, the beholder has the chance to participate in the making of knowledge. The two sketches also give a dynamic and precarious image of European culture and styles in the history of art: They are not considered as stable entities but as products of exchange, confrontation and struggle (‘Auseinandersetzungserzeugnis’). Pictures and symbols are constantly moving between North and South, East and West. They are subject to interpretation, distortion, inversion and displacement. Their migration is also the model for the determination of concepts (‘Umfangsbestimmung’). A central concept, such as the pictorial type of the ‘Nymph’, is an intellectual journey that connects semantically (and geographically) distant points. The movement leading back to its starting point, however, indicates here also the problem that the history of civilization does not follow a straight path, but swings back and forth between humanizing and regressive violent tendencies.

  • 1. See e.g. Aby Warburg: The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity. Contributions to the Cultural History of the European Renaissance, Introduction by Kurt Forster, Translation by David Britt, Los Angeles 1999, p. 41.

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  • 2. Introduction, ibid., (1–75), p. 40.

  • 3. On maps, see Dorothea McEwan: Aby Warburg's (1866–1929) Dots and Lines. Mapping the Diffusion of Astrological Motifs in Art History, in: German Studies Review 29.2 (2006), 243–268, and Claudia Wedepohl: Ideengeographie. Ein Versuch zu Aby Warburgs Entgrenzte Räume. Kulturelle Transfers um 1900 und in der Gegenwart, ed. by Helga Mitterbauer and Katharina Scherke, Wien 2005, pp. 227–251. Many diagrams are reproduced in Georges Didi-Huberman: L’Image survivante. Histoire de l'art et temps des fantômes selon Aby Warburg, Paris 2002.

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  • 4. Cf. ‘mobile […] iconographic vehicles’; Warburg 1999 (see note 1), p. 315.

  • 5. Cf. the stamp commissioned by Warburg with the inscription ‘idea vincit’.

  • 6. Warburg 1999 (see note 1), p. 702.

  • 7. ‘This exegetical grand tour [Rundreise, S.M.] leads us back to its starting point…’; ibid., p. 650.

  • 8. Warburg Institute Archive, III. 45.1, p. 37, quoted after Cornelia Zumbusch: Wissenschaft in Bildern. Symbol und dialektisches Bild in Aby Warburgs Mnemosyne-Atlas und Walter Benjamins Passagen-Werk, Berlin 2004, p. 245 (translation by S.M.).

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  • 9. Ernst H. Gombrich : Aby Warburg. An Intellectual Biography, London 1970, p. 287.

  • 10. Tagebuch der Kulturwissenschaftlichen Bibliothek Warburg. Gesammelte Schriften. Studienausgabe, ed. by Horst Bredekamp/Michael Diers etc., Berlin 1998-, VII, 399 (15/1/1929) (translation by S.M.).

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  • 11. Warburg 1999 (see note 1), p. 702.

  • 12. ‘… Besonnenheit which to the German reader of humanist training recalls the Greek ideal of sophrosyne. Liddell and Scott translate it as “soundness of mind, moderation … self-control”, while German usage rather brings out the overtones of reflection, detachment, serenity and poise.’ Gombrich 1970 (see note 9), p. 17. The English edition of Warburg's writings translates the famous expression ‘Denkraum der Besonnenheit” as “conceptual space of rationality’; Warburg 1999 (see note 1), p. 650.

  • 13. After his release from Binswanger's psychiatric clinic Warburg names himself a revenant who had come back from the land of the dead.

  • 14. A more comprehensive version of this essay will be published in German.