Aby Warburg and the Image In Motion

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Aby Warburg and the Image In Motion History
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Aby Warburg (1866-1929) is best known as the originator of the discipline oficonology and as the founder of the institute that bears his name. His followers included suchcelebrated art historians of the twentieth century as Erwin Panofsky, Edgar Wind, and Fritz Saxl.But his heirs developed, for the most part, a domesticated iconology based on the interpretation ofsymbolic material. As Phillippe-Alain Michaud shows in this important book, Warburg's own projectwas remote from any positivist or neo-Kantian ambitions. Nourished on the work of Nietzsche andBurckhardt, Warburg fashioned a "critical iconology" to reveal the irrationality of the image inWestern culture. Opposing the grand teleological narratives of art inaugurated by Vasari, Warburg'smethod operated through historical anachronisms and discontinuities. Using "montage-collision" tocreate textless collections of images, he brought together pagan artifacts and masterpieces ofFlorentine Renaissance art, ancient Near East astrology and the Lutheran Reformation, Manneristfestivals and the sacred dances of Native Americans. Michaud insists that for Warburg, the practiceof art history was the discovery within the art work itself of fracture, contradictions, tensions,and the energies of magic, empathy, totemism, and animism. Challenging normative accounts of WesternEuropean classicism, Warburg located the real sources of the Renaissance in the Dionysian spirit, inthe expression of movement and dance, in the experience of trance personified in the frenzied nymphor ecstatic maenad.Aby Warburg and the Image in Motion is not only a book about Warburg but a bookwritten with him; Michaud uses Warburg's intuitions and discoveries to analyze other categories ofimagery, including the daguerreotype, the chronophotography of Etienne-Jules Marey, early cinema,and the dances of Loie Fuller. It will be essential reading for anyone concerned with the origins ofmodern art history and the visual culture of modernity.

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