Tableaux Vivants and Attitudes: Image-Circulation in Goethe’s ‘Elective Affinities’ and Lady Hamilton’s Poses


Lady Hamilton posing in one of her attitudes
Engraving by Friedrich Rehberg, from his “Drawings faithfully copied from
nature at Naples…” London 1797.

Dr Philipp Ekardt

(NOMIS-fellow (eikones), University of Basel)

Monday, 10 December 2018, 5:30 pm

at the
Warburg Institute
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB

Admission free; please register for this event through the Events section of the School of Advanced Study (SAS).

Aby Warburg’s concept of the Bilderfahrzeug implies a theory of
image-transmission which relies on the notion of a displacement of
material ‘carriers’ (a palpable medial support) on which such images
‘travel’. This lecture focuses on the period around 1800, and in
particular the works of Goethe – primarily his novel ‘Elective Affinities’
(1809), as well as Lady Hamilton’s ‘attitudes’ – offering a perspective on the mechanisms of image-circulation at that historical and cultural moment. Investigating Goethe and Hamilton also allows us to differentiate our general understanding of image-transmissions.

Looking at Goethe’s literary accounts of so-called ‘tableaux vivants’
(living images), and Hamilton’s art of theatrical poses and their
mediation, it becomes clear that the activity of building assemblages and
the aesthetic and artistic concept of composition are of central
importance here. Both form part of a constellation in which images are
less seen as ‘traveling’ on concrete carriers than as appearing,
disappearing and reappearing in fortuitous material configurations which have been composed. The tableaux vivants and the attitudes form part of a system in which also magical and aesthetic moments of resemblance, or the creation of vistas in parks have their place.

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