Most discussions of Aby Warburg’s picture atlas understandably focus on issues of iconography and iconology. In contrast, this blog concentrates exclusively on aspects of its material history and the photographic campaigns that guaranteed the survival of the various stages, or ‘series’ of the Atlas. Much of this history has been discussed by Claudia Wedepohl and the curators of the recent Mnemosyne atlas exhibition, Roberto Ohrt and Axel Heil, in their monumental publication Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas Mnemosyne – The Original . The present blog revisits these issues with a tight focus on the questions ‘What did the original atlas in Hamburg consist of?’ and ‘How many times was it photographed?’ While I propose a different answer to the second question than the above mentioned authors, with regard to the first one, my aim is rather to present in greater detail the basic facts. I am doing this not least to counter some misconceptions of the original presentation of the atlas in the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg (K.B.W.)
Author: Eckart Marchand
A posthumous publication: Frank Martin’s “Camillo Rusconi: ein Bildhauer des Spätbarock in Rom” (2019)
When recently I took Frank Martin’s posthumously published book off the shelf at the Warburg Institute I was pursuing issues relating to eighteenth-century Italian sculpture, in particular the making and use of models. But the book attracted me also on a personal level. Frank Martin died unexpectedly at the age of 53 in 2014. I knew him well from periods when we had worked at the same institutions, in 1993 at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, where he was a postdoctoral fellow, and again in 1996 at the Warburg Institute, where he held a three-month Frances Yates Fellowship.
Plaster casts are image vehicles par excellence. They can reproduce and multiply three-dimensional form, and serve the dissemination of visual ideas from one place to another; they can record lost stages of a work’s appearance, e.g. pre-completion, pre-damage, pre-destruction or pre-restauration. Often perceived as perfect one to one copies of the external form of a three-dimensional work, they can also accidentally or deliberately differ from what they reproduce, and with their white and even surface they can condition the perception of the works they represent. Thus, cast are also works in their own right, objects with their own history. Yet, for long, they proved rather evasive. Until recently, there have been few attempts to date them either through material or technical analysis. Given their status as copies, historicaly they were often not documented, and where archival references to casts exist, the objects under discussion are often either lost or impossible to identify beyond reasonable doubt. This situation is changing, as a recent exhibition at the Villa Medici in Rome (November 2019-March 2020) demonstrated
In the first half of this two-part blog about the Yates Family Archive I have introduced the parents of Frances Yates (b. 1899), her three siblings Hannah (b. 1885), Ruby (b. 1887) and James (b. 1889) as well as the house in Claygate from where after the scholar’s death in 1981 the Family Archive, an adjunct to Yates’ working papers, had been transferred to the Warburg Institute. I shall now turn to the collection itself.
In her “Autobiographical Fragments”, written in the year of her death, Frances Yates (1899-1981) refers to a photograph from her childhood. It relates to a period in 1912, when her family was briefly living on a farm in Ingleton in North-Yorkshire. The twelve-year old Frances had been told by her family to work through the books for the Junior Cambridge examination as to supplement her irregular teaching: “I think that this is why I was making an elaborate study of Macaulay’s ‘Lays of Ancient Rome,’ …. or passionately declaiming ‘Lars Porsena of Clusium By the nine gods he swore’ to the lamb in the field opposite. I have a snapshot of that lamb standing quite alone in the distance … and looking slightly worried.”
Conference organised by Spike Bucklow, Victoria Sutcliffe and Lucy Wrapson, Hamilton Kerr Institute, University of Cambridge. Held at Murray Edwards College, Cambridge, 15-16 November 2018.
This recent conference had an obvious political dimension as it encouraged the discussion of omnipresent international exchanges in the practice and reception of art as part of a phenomenon that presently troubles and polarizes our societies. In its extreme connotations, the term ‘migrants’ brings to mind images of uprooted individuals facing mortal danger as they try to escape from war, poverty and social injustice. The term also polarizes opinions as it evokes associations as diverse as peaceful self-fulfilment and cosmopolitanism, exciting cultural exchange, and ideas of flexible workforces moving across continents to satisfy the demands of global companies on the one side and fears of imported crime, a drop in living standards, loss of jobs and national identity on the other.
Kate Nichols: ‘Greece and Rome at the Crystal Palace: Classical Sculpture and Modern Britain, 1854-1936’
During the last twenty years there has been a strong shift in attitude towards the presentation, preservation and study of plaster cast collections. Long neglected they find themselves now the object of increasing attention among curators, conservators and researchers alike. Kate Nichols contributes to this development with an analytical monograph on a lost and nearly forgotten collection, bringing to the fore the complexity of its historical reception.