Weltliche Kunst von Flandern im Mediceischen Florenz / Der Kampf um den Stil (1903/1904)

In 1902 Warburg published his article Flandrische Kunst und florentinische Frührenaissance (Flemisch art and Florentine Early Renaissance) in the journal of the Royal Prussian collections. A sequel on the reception of Flemish secular art in Medicean Florence was to appear in the 1903 volume. When by December 1903 Warburg’s piece was still in progress the editors informed him that he had missed the deadline, referring him to the next volume. To their irritation, Warburg then offered the text to Heinrich Brockhaus, Director of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence, for the institute’s new journal Italienische Studien.

The incomplete article was accepted and immediately prepared for print as to appear in April 1904. Warburg received and returned proofs in January, February and March, but failed to write the outstanding conclusion. Pressed by Brockhaus in November 1904 to return at least the last set of corrected proofs, Warburg pulled out.

Within weeks Warburg decided to turn the incomplete text into a professorial thesis, required to obtain a lectureship at a German university. He glued the corrected proofs into a ledger and reworked them. Four introductory pages were successively filled with attempts to find a new, much more comprehensive title, a struggle that is also reflected on the ledger’s cover. In the end Warburg rejected all professorships in favour of his existence as an independent scholar. Neither the article, nor the more ambitious reworked study, nor his edition of the inventory of the Medici villa at Careggi, the document on which the study was based, were ever published.


1. Warburg’s letter of 3 December 1903 to Heinrich Brockhaus, offering his article. In the last paragraph of the first page he describes it as “to two thirds completed”, asking for another two months to finish it.

2. First page of first set of proofs, dated 30 January 1904 with corrections by Warburg.

3. Ledger, started in December 1904, bearing a photograph of Warburg’s son Max Adolph (b. 1902).

Inscriptions by Warburg on the main label:

“Stilgeschichtliche Untersuchungen über die Entwicklung weltlicher Kunst in der Florentinischen Frührenaissance / von A. W.

Der Kampf um den Stil weltlicher Malerei in der Florentinischen Frührenaissance / 4.VIII. 906.

Die Stilwandlung in der weltlichen Malerei der Florentinischen Frührenaissance”

(Studies in the History of Style Concerning the Development of Secular Art in the Florentine Early Renaissance / by A. W.

The Battle over the Style of Secular Painting in the Florentine Early Renaissance / 4 August 1906

The Transformation of Style in Secular Painting of the Florentine Early Renaissance)

The label in the top left hand corner post-dates Warburg: “Project for the professorial dissertation, proofs and manuscript”.

4a. Warburg’s diary (WIA, III. 10.3, f. 28r. and 28v.)

13 November 1904: “Well then, I get my child sent back to me.”

4b. Three days later, Warburg compares his feelings to those of a wounded soldier left behind during the advance.


Aby Warburg: A Life in Photographs
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Lectures 1909