Aby Warburg  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Abraham Moritz Warburg, known as Aby Warburg, (June 13, 1866October 26, 1929) was an art historian and cultural theorist who founded the Warburg Institute. The subject of his research was the legacy of the Classical world in the most varied areas of western culture through to the Renaissance. He was responsible for establishing iconology as an independent discipline.

Warburg described himself as:

Amburghese di cuore, ebreo di sangue, d'anima Fiorentino
(Hamburger at heart, Jew by birth, Florentine in spirit)

Studies

In 1886 Warburg began his study of art history, history and archaeology in Bonn and attended the lectures on the history of religion by Hermann Usener, those on cultural history by Karl Lamprecht and on art history by Carl Justi. He continued his studies in Munich and with Hubert Janitschek in Strasbourg, completing under him his dissertation on Botticelli’s paintings The Birth of Venus and Primavera.

From 1888 to 1889 he studied the sources of these pictures at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence. He was now interested in applying the methods of natural science to the human sciences. The dissertation was completed in 1892 and printed in 1893. Warburg’s study introduced into art history a new method, that of iconography or iconology, later developed by Erwin Panofsky. After receiving his doctorate Warburg studied for two semesters at the Medical Faculty of the University of Berlin, where he attended lectures on psychology. During this period he undertook a further trip to Florence.

Bibliography

Writings

  • Das Schlangenritual. Ein Reisebericht. Mit einem Nachwort von Ulrich Raulff. Berlin 1988.
  • Die Erneuerung der heidnischen Antike. Beiträge zur Geschichte der europäischen Literatur. Hrsg. von Horst Bredekamp und M. Diers. Bände. [1932]. Berlin 1998.
  • Der Bilderatlas MNEMOSYNE. Hrsg. von Marfred Warnke u. C. Brink. Berlin 2000.
  • Gesammelte Schriften (Studienausgabe), Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1998–





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