1. Panel 1 of the 'first' version

The Mnemosyne Atlas as published by Martin Warnke in a facsimile edition in 2000 consists of the last of three consecutively -- between May 1928 and October 1929 -- composed series. All three series draw on roughly the same pool of images but differ in both their sequence and their composition.

The so called ‘final’ series consists of 971 images. It is most advanced of the three and was, directly after Warburg’s sudden death, considered close to completion. In its known form the sequence contains minor posthumous modifications, made to establish a certain coherence with regard to numbers and order. The preceding two series run under the labels ‘first’ and ‘penultimate’; each of them was for Warburg ‘work in progress’ before he went on to record a new version. Notably the second series was heavily re-worked after the photo shoots.

The ‘final’ series consists of 63 panels. Their numbering goes up to 79, including three introductory panels, labelled ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C, which were to set out the theoretical pretence of Warburg’s atlas. Not only the gaps in the sequence, but also double-numbers indicate the preliminary state of the project.

2. Panel 1 of the 'penultimate' version

Flicking through the photographs of the atlas panels means revisiting Warburg’s various research projects: Plate 46 is focused on the so-called ninfa, a young woman, dressed all’antica who appears in Quattrocento Italian festival culture as well as in both documents and painting of the same period. Since his doctoral dissertation Warburg was interested in this motif. On panel 57 he displays the images he had used in his 1905 lecture on “Dürer and Italian Antiquity” – famous for the introduction of the term Pathosformel. All these panels lack the explanatory commentary of their author. This display includes a print of the ‘penultimate’ sequence, and photographs from the ‘first’ and the ‘final’ series.

3. Panel 1 of the ‘final’ sequence.

This panel includes photographs of two Babylonian clay models from the 14th century B.C. The models are of sheep’s livers that were used for divinatory purposes.

4. Warburg might have obtained these plaster casts from the Staatliche Museen in Berlin, where the originals were kept.


Aby Warburg: A Life in Photographs
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Gombrich Geburtsatlas