(1866–1929) is best known as the originator of the discipline
of iconology and as the founder of the institute that bears his
name. His followers included some of the celebrated art historians
of the twentieth century such as Erwin Panofsky, Edgar Wind, and
Fritz Saxl. But his heirs developed, for the most part, a domesticated
iconology based on the decipherment and interpretation of symbolic
material. As Philippe-Alain Michaud demonstrates in this important
book, Warburg’s project was remote from any positivist or
neo-Kantian ambitions. Nourished on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche
and Jacob Burckhardt, Warburg fashioned a “critical iconology”
to reveal the irrationality of the image in Western culture.
Opposing the grand teleological narratives of art inaugurated by
Giorgio Vasari, Warburg’s method operated through historical
anachronisms and discontinuities. Using procedures of “montage-collision”
he brought together pagan artifacts with masterpieces of Florentine
Renaissance art, the astrology of the ancient Near East with the
Lutheran Reformation, Mannerist festivals with the sacred dances
of Native Americans. Michaud insists that for Warburg, the practice
of art history was not only the recognition of the radical heterogeneity
of objects but the discovery within the art work itself of lines
of fracture, contradictions, tensions, and the energies of magic,
empathy, totemism, and animism.
Michaud provides us with a book that not only is about Warburg
but also extends his intuitions and discoveries into analyses of
other categories of imagery like the daguerreotype, the chronophotography
of Etienne-Jules Marey, early cinema, and the dances of Loïe
Fuller. This edition also includes a foreword by Georges Didi-Huberman
and texts by Warburg not previously translated into English.
Chosen as one of the best art books of 2004 by the Washington
Post and Bookforum.