The Photographic Collection

The Warburg Institute's Photographic Collection contains physical photographs of sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints, tapestries and other forms of imagery. The Collection was begun by Aby Warburg in the late 1880s, and includes tens of thousands of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century photographs and slides, together with hundreds of thousands of images added since the Institute came to London in 1933. Most of the works depicted are European, and range in date from classical antiquity to circa 1800, and expanding sections on various forms of non-European art.

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Search by iconographic keywords or browse the iconographic classification system.

Visit the Iconographic Database

Subject Index

The collection is organised iconographically: photographs are ordered not by artist or by period, but by subject. So, for example, Dürer’s Melencolia I is filed under magic & science – Four Temperaments – Melancholy – Female figure with putto(s) etc. Next to it in the folder there are photographs of other images of melancholy: manuscript illuminations, book plates, woodcuts, drawings, engravings and paintings, some high art, most low art, from all over Europe, produced during a period of about 500 years.

This unique filing system helps users to:

·         Identify the subjects of obscure works

·         Locate images whose artist is unknown

·         Understand the frequency with which stories were depicted

·         Analyze the relationship of images to textual sources

·         Trace iconographic developments through time

·         Test theories about the social functions of images

The members of staff in the Collection, all of whom are academics who publish in the field of iconography, help visitors to find their way around the filing system, and answer enquiries from scholars and the general public.



The system was devised in the 1930s by Rudolf Wittkower. Towards the end of his life Aby Warburg suggested a thematic structure based around the concepts which can also be found in his Mnemosyne Atlas, but Wittkower decided instead to develop a more neutral taxonomy based on iconographic types. One of its unique features is precisely its flexibility, which allows for constant modification and hence an unrivalled range of iconographic categories.

In the Photographic Collection as a whole there are at present around 18,000 subject folders, providing a detailed picture of European iconography, and summary overviews of Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Islamic, Indian, Far Eastern and non-Eurasian iconographies. The structure and order of the iconographic categories are listed in the Subject Index.

Charges for Reproduction

For high-resolution digital reproductions of Photographic Collection photographs: Photographic Collection Digital Photographs (EU) £12.00

For high-resolution digital reproductions of glass negatives: Photographic Collection Digital Photographs (Non-EU) £10.00

For slides: £10.00 + VAT per slide (minimum order of 10 slides)

Reproduction rights

-books with print run 1000+: Publication Permission (EU) £60.00

-books with print run 1000+: Publication Permission (Non-EU) £50.00

-waived for books with print run under 1000, scholarly articles if copy of publication presented to our Library
Other fees, including use on TV, prices on application 
Reg. no. GB 222 797 103

If you wish to place a photo-order, please email with the requested information. Advance payment is required via this link. 

All enquiries to:


The Photographic Collection is open, without charge, to anyone engaged in research or genuinely interested in the objects of the Warburg Institute.

Group visits and guided tours

October to July

Monday to Thursday: 9.00 am - 8.00 pm
Friday: 9.00 am - 6.00 pm
Saturday: 10.00 am - 5.00 pm 

August and September

Monday to Friday        10.00 am - 6.00 pm

Holiday opening times are identical to the Warburg Institute Library


Paul Taylor 

Deputy Curator:
Rembrandt Duits


The Warburg Institute Iconographic Database contains digitised images from the Institute's Photographic Collection and Library. The material for which the Warburg Institute holds the copyrights is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 3.0 Unported License.


The Photographic Collection of the Warburg Institute is continuing its efforts to digitise its complete holdings. We hope our collection of materials, now freely accessible on the internet, will form a valuable aid to anyone seeking to gain a deeper understanding of visual tradition from Classical Antiquity and its afterlife in western culture and beyond.

Census of Antique Art and Architecture Known to the Renaissance

The photographs illustrating the Census of Antique Art and Architecture Known to the Renaissance are placed in blue folders within each relevant category. In this Index the headings of individual Census folders are not listed, since the Census as a whole has been computerised, and is available online 

Staff Assistance

Staff are be happy to assist with your enquiries in person, and to assist with the use of the Collection.

So far as time permits, the staff shall attempt to advise, by letter, telephone or email, on the iconography of photographs sent by those who cannot themselves visit the Institute. It is not possible to list or enumerate the contents of folders, or to provide photocopies. Guidance can be given as to whether the holdings in a particular category are large enough to warrant a special visit.