Mnemosyne. Meanderings through Aby Warburg’s Atlas: online dieci pannelli


Mnemosyne, l’ultimo progetto di Aby Warburg, è un “atlante figurativo composto da una serie di tavole, costituite da montaggi fotografici che assemblano riproduzioni di opere diverse: testimonianze di ambito soprattutto rinascimentale (opere d’arte, pagine di manoscritti, carte da gioco, etc.); ma anche reperti archeologici dell’antichità orientale, greca e romana; e ancora testimonianze della cultura del XX secolo (ritagli di giornale, etichette pubblicitarie, francobolli).”

The actual panels of the “last version” are no longer extant; only black and white photographs (18 x 24 cm) of them remain, held in the archives of the Warburg Institute. However, seventy-one years after Warburg’s death, Martin Warnke with the assistance of Claudia Brink, produced a magnificent edition of the atlas based on the “last version.” [See Der Bilderatlas: Mnemosyne in Warburg’s Gesammelte Schriften, II.1 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2000 [reprinted in 2003, 2008]). The other volumes in the Gesammelte Schriften, from the two volumes of Warburg’s published writings [I.1-2], the Tagebuch der Kulturwissenschaftlich Bibliothek Warburg [VII] to the just published, Austellungen [II.3], offer other avenues for interpreting and supplementing the Mnemosyne Atlas.] In addition to providing Warburg’s draft Introduction to the Mnemosyne Atlas – a key if characteristically knotty fragmentary text – they also reproduce Fritz Saxl’s illuminating letter to a prospective publisher regarding the Atlas, while Warnke’s own Introduction provides important details about the Mnemosyne Atlas, its genesis, scope, and potential meanings.

We know, then, that Warburg’s plan had been to complete at least 79 and perhaps as many as 200 panels. Typically, though, Warburg’s vision was not fully realized. As we have it, the Atlas is frozen in a provisional state: panels appear without titles; individual images – there are 971 in all – were for the most part displayed without titles or other identifying information; and while some photographs are matted, most are not. Fortunately, though, in a notebook titled Überschriften: Synopsis of Plates [WIA, III.104.1], Warburg’s colleague Gertrud Bing, following her mentor’s lead, offers brief headings for each panel, furnishing thereby a kind of conceptual shorthand signposting main subjects and themes. For instance, the headings summarizing the astrological symbolism of panel 22 read: “Spanish-Arabic practice. (Alfonso). Manipulation. The cosmic system as dice table. Sorcery. Lithomancy.” Such abbreviated, aphoristic indications of what and how we are to interpret resemble the headings of an encyclopedic entry – albeit an encyclopedia consisting entirely of pictures. Or, if you will, the photographs of the panels serve as a set of post-modern grisailles, a belated memory palace, which invites us to contemplate Warburg’s syncretic vision of the afterlife of pagan symbolism and cosmography in medieval, Renaissance, and post-Renaissance art and thought.”

Nel sito Mnemosyne. Meanderings thorugh Aby Warburg’s Atlas trovate le fotografie di questi dieci pannelli accompagnati da una spiegazione e da suggerimenti bibliografici:

Panel B traces correspondences between the human being and the cosmos that underlie all other analogical associations in Warburg’s atlas. Spyros Papapetros offers this guided pathway.
Panel C addresses the epistemology and the practice of the creation of symbols. Claudia Wedepohl guides this pathway.
Panel 8 is given over to antique cults that centered on solar deities. Elizabeth Sears lights the way.
Panel 45 depicts excessive and alarming occurrences, the dangers of intense and unmediated passions. Hans Christian Hönes is our guide.
Panel 46 presents variations on the gesture of “bearing something/someone to something/someone else.” Andrea Pinotti elucidates.

Panel 47 is concerned with Florentine art of the later fifteenth century, exploring themes of protection and slaughter through the figure of the nymph. Ben Anderson provides this guided pathway.
Panel 48 is concerned with the shifting uses of the pagan goddess Fortuna in medieval and Renaissance imagery. Florian Fuchs provides this guided pathway.
Panel 61-64  is concerned with the storms of ambivalence, transformation, and conflict that characterize the of transmission Antiquity, despite the putative stability of the heritage. Lisa Robertson navigates.
Panel 70 is devoted to “Baroque Pathos.” This guided pathway traces the status of the Baroque in Warburg’s Atlas, which tends to privilege the Renaissance and its reception of antiquity. Jane O. Newman is our guide, with Laura Hatch.
Panel 79 has as its principal theme the Eucharist. Christopher D. Johnson provides this guided pathway.

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