Aby Warburg, Bilderatlas Mnemosyne
In February 1927 embarked in earnest on a project that he never completed: the Bilderatlas Mnemosyne which is nowadays his most famous work. Conceived over the course of more than 2 ½ years as the summa of his life’s work, the Bilderatlas – as work-in-progress a series of wooden panels, coved with black cloth, on which Warburg pinned clusters of images (photographic reproductions, photos, postcards and various kinds of printed material) – was developed in several stages. During the time of constantly changing both the selection and the arrangement of images and the number of panels, the series was photographed three times. The aim of the first two photographic campaigns was to produce an aide memoire while Warburg kept trying to reach a definite layout of the future large-scale Bilderatlas plates. The first series of panels was photographed in May 1928 and the second in late August 1928; both served the continuation of the project during Warburg’s absences from Hamburg. The last and best known series, 63 panels with 971 items, was photographed shortly after Warburg’s death (26 October 1929) in order to record the last stage he had reached in the development of this project. The photographs should have helped his former collaborators, Fritz Saxl and Gertrud Bing, during their preparation of a posthumous edition of Warburg’s Bilderatlas Mnemosyne.