Category: Readings

Articles published in this section discuss publications that are relevant to the research conducted by the project; they reflect ongoing conversations between its members.

„Ubuntu“ als Möglichkeitsraum politischen Handelns für das Zukünftige? Über Felwine Sarrs „Afrotopia“

Ein kompromissloses Manifest ist Felwine Sarr mit dem Buch „Afrotopia“ gelungen, das 2016 erschien und seit diesem Jahr in deutscher und demnächst in englischer Übersetzung vorliegt. Fragt man sich, welche Leserschaft der Autor anspricht und vermutet aufgrund des vom Titel alludierten Themenhorizonts es adressiere allein diejenigen, die sich mit den Zukünften Afrikas befassen wollen, sei man zwar nicht enttäuscht, aber doch aufgefordert einige längere Blicke hinein zu werfen.

Aby Warburg: “Italienische Kunst und internationale Astrologie im Palazzo Schifanoia in Ferrara” (1912/1922)

The different modes that are brought together in this image may be summarized as “movement” and “stillness”, “tamed” and “untamed”, a central dialectic in the handling of falcons. On the one side, a hunting party is depicted with hooded and hence calm falcons, on the other a restless rider on horseback (note his garments, fluttering in motion), whose falcon almost flies away from his fist and is about to launch itself at the beholders of the artwork. Falcon and image are transformed here into a mirror of princes by shaping the courtiers’ actions and habitus.

The Haunting of Style: Emanuel Löwy on the “Origins of Visual Art”

In a lecture delivered at the Vienna Academy of Sciences in 1930, the classical archaeologist Emanuel Löwy (1857–1938) sought to excavate the “origins of art” in Greece. His earlier writings had traced the linear and isolated appearance of ancient figural representations to underlying “memory-pictures” that had been reproduced uncritically, before a new “physiological” sense of observation launched the birth of classical art. Similar to children’s drawings, as Löwy argued, at this stage man created images that were suggested by reality but essentially conjured from within the mind. His Vienna lecture probed these very same stylistic features, but on different premises. In this paper it is not the mechanics of the mind, but its irrational anxieties that mobilize objects against evil spirits and thus ultimately propel artistic change.

Kavita Singh: “Real Birds in Imagined Gardens: Mughal Painting between Persia and Europe”.

“Real Birds in Imagined Gardens”, arises out of Kavita Singh’s lecture titled, “Looking East, Looking West: Mughal Painting between Persia and Europe” as part of the Getty Research Institute Council’s lecture series, held at the Getty Centre in 2015. As outlined in the foreword, the book joins the rich stream of ongoing research ‘that transcends the traditional boundaries of Western art history.’ (p.vii). At the core of the volume, lies the endeavour to underline how Mughal painters enthusiastically received and responded to the arts of Europe. In addition, Singh also considers the interests, precedents and legacies of Mughal painting occasioned through the circulation of objects, ideas and individuals from Safavid Iran to Mughal India (Hindustan).  

Allison Stielau: The Case of the Case for Early Modern Objects.

On 17th and 18th June 2019 the first workshop of the second round of the research group Bilderfahrzeuge took place at the Warburg Institute, London. Under the title “Image/Vessel” it dealt with the methodological and theoretical relation of two important topics of art historical research: image theory and thing theory. Based on the first text of the readings section of the workshop, The Case of the Case for Early Modern Objects and Images by Allison Stielau, we began with an examination of the relation between container and contained. In light of this essay and the ensuing discussion, I would like to present some central questions and reflections of the workshop.

Marc Bloch: “Réflections d’un historien sur les fausses nouvelles de la guerre”

“Items of false news, in all the multiplicity of their forms – simple gossip, deceptions, legends – have filled the life of humanity. How are they born? From what elements do they take shape? How do they propagate themselves, gaining strength as they pass from mouth to mouth or writing to writing?” – In 1921, three years after the end of the First World War, the historian Marc Bloch posed these questions in his essay Reflections of an Historian on the False News of the War.

Edgar Wind: ‘Hume and the Heroic Self-Portrait’

Often understood as a mode of Geistesgeschichte, Wind’s lecture was a pioneering effort to think about canonical works of 18th century British art through the larger philosophical discourse of their time, most notably through the debates aroused by the skeptical arguments of David Hume concerning human nature. How might paintings, Wind asked, have been involved in the period’s questioning and championing of human reason as a trustworthy cognitive capacity that purportedly elevates man above other animals?

Barbara Wittmann: ‘Bedeutungsvolle Kritzeleien. Eine Kultur- und Wissensgeschichte der Kinderzeichung, 1500-1950’

There is no dearth of scholarship on modern artists’ reception and appropriation of children’s drawings, but Wittmann’s book tells a decidedly different – and more ambitious – story. Employing an interdisciplinary approach informed as much by the history of science as by the history of art, the author sets her sights on the operative function of the children’s drawing within the discourses, practices and institutions that shaped modern childhood as such. By addressing a wide range of social and scientific contexts – from experimental psychology to progressive education, from intelligence testing to psychoanalysis – the author reveals the diverse and often contradictory ways in which these fields implemented the children’s drawing both as an object and an instrument of knowledge.

Carlo Severi: ‘The Universe of the Arts of Memory’

“The Universe of the Arts of Memory” (Chapter Three), pp. 61-97, in: Capturing Imagination. A Proposal for an Anthropology of Thought by Carlo Severi. The comprehensive aim of this essay is to further develop the anthropology of memory which the author earlier proposed in his work The Chimera Principle: An Anthropology of Memory and Imagination (French ed. 2007; English ed. 2015). The latter opens with a discussion on Aby Warburg’s work on the biology of images in regard to Hopi pictograms.

W.G. Sebald: ‘The Rings Of Saturn’

If I said I was writing about W.G. Sebald’s ‘The Rings of Saturn’ because of his use of Early Modern English collector Thomas Browne, I would not be lying, exactly. There’s lots of good writing about the nature of collection, and Browne himself, that I could highlight here. Sebald’s academic claims about Browne aren’t central to the book anyway, at least in the sense that everything he touches is somehow both central and peripheral at once.

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.

Fritz Saxl: “Why Art History?”

In March 1948, only a few days before his death, Fritz Saxl spoke in London in front of students of Royal Holloway College. Throughout his professional life, he had been devoted to issues of teaching art history as well as employing art for the purpose of public education. It is in this context that the lecture poses the programmatic question: ‘Why art history?’