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Aby M. Warburg «Mnemosyne-Atlas» | Mnemosyne-Atlas, Boards of the Rembrandt-Exhibition
Aby M. Warburg, «Mnemosyne-Atlas», 1924 – 1929
Mnemosyne-Atlas, Boards of the Rembrandt-Exhibition, 1926 | Photography | ©
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 Aby M. Warburg

Warburg entitled the series «Mnemosyne, A Picture Series Examining the Function of Preconditioned Antiquity-Related Expressive Values for the Presentation of Eventful Life in the Art of the European Renaissance». The atlas is fundamentally the attempt to combine the philosophical with the image-historical approach. Attached on wooden boards covered with black cloth are photographs of images, reproductions from books, and visual materials from newspapers and/or daily life, which Warburg arranges in such a way that they illustrate one or several thematic areas. Only the boards of the picture atlas have survived as photographed ensembles. Throughout the years since 1924, Warburg’s picture collection of circa 2,000 reproductions generated other configurations fixed and photographed on boards. In addition, specific themes were reconfigured for individual exhibitions or lectures. The last existing series originally consisted of 63 tableaus.
Today, Warburg’s working style would be categorized as researching ‹visual clusters›. Only these are not ordered according to visual similarity, evident in the sense of an iconographic history of style; but rather through relationships caused by an ‹affinity for one another› and the principle of ‹good company,› which let themselves be reconstructed through the study of texts (as for example, contract conditions or biological associations).

Source: Aby Warburg. Der Bilderatlas MNEMOSYNE, Martin Warnke (ed.), Berlin 2003, 2nd printing.


Rudolf Frieling