Das Schlangenritual. Ein Reisebericht. Mit einem Nachwort von Ulrich Raulff. Berlin Die Erneuerung der heidnischen Antike. Gesammelte Schriften, Berlin: Akademie-Verlag,
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Warburg — was a pioneer of the modern study of art and visual culture. Before the First World War, he made his professional name as an expert in Florentine art through a comparatively small number of publications, which nevertheless consistently offered surprising insights and repeatedly led to sensational discoveries.
What was utterly extraordinary, however, was the project to which he dedicated the final years of his life: the Mnemosyne Atlas, which has long remained a legend, even after its publication in Salon From to , Warburg concentrated his entire body of knowledge in this collection of images, which ultimately spanned 63 panels and encompassed almost a thousand individual pieces. He predominantly used photographs, but also included illustrations from books or picture files, original graphics, and newspaper clippings.
He even used postage stamps and promotional brochures. He chose Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory and mother of the muses, as the patron saint of his project. Warburg was concerned with the question of how the pictorial world of antiquity had come back into the European cultural sphere and led the medieval world into a new era — a classic problem with a very familiar solution: the Renaissance, the rebirth.
Warburg never simply mapped out the dialogues and clashes of interest between artists, clients, philosophers, poets, and churches. The lines of conflict run through the very people involved — and through the works.
It is little wonder, then, that the atlas also knows no boundaries within art. Painting, sculpture, graphic design, illuminated manuscripts, tapestries, wedding chests, playing cards, everyday objects, jewelry — in every area Warburg sought the clues that could help him.
The Mnemosyne Atlas, August 1928
Aby Warburg: Bilderatlas MNEMOSYNE
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