Lectures 1909

Lecture series 'Introduction into the culture of the Early Renaissance' in Italy Hamburg 1909


Not least to establish himself as a private scholar in Hamburg, Warburg gave three public lecture series as part of the city’s higher education programme, an activity that preceded the founding of the city’s university in 1919. While the first series on Leonardo (1899) and the second on Ghirlandaio (1901) consisted of 3 lectures each, the third, Einführung in die Kultur der italienischen Frührenaissance, given between February and March 1909, was much longer and conceived less as a proper introduction to art and culture of the Italian Early Renaissance than to Warburg’s research on this topic. Eight lectures were advertised, but Warburg reduced the number to seven.


February – March 1909

Tages-Neuigkeiten (Daily News)

Public Lecture Bureau at the Office for Public Education:

This week Dr A. Warburg begins a series of eight lectures introducing the culture of the Early Italian Renaissance with photographs. The Lectures - aimed at listeners with an interest in the study of history and sufficient prior knowledge of the subject -  will take place between the 6th of February and the 27th of March of this year, on Saturday afternoons between 6.30pm and 7.30pm in Lecture Hall A of the Johanneum. Admission will be granted at a fee of 5 M(arks), not 10 M(arks) as previously advertised in the schedule of lectures. Tickets are available daily between 9am and 4pm at the Public Lecture Bureau in Dammtorstraße 25. The subjects of the individual lectures and evenings are as follows: 6th February: Character and Origin of the Early Renaissance Movement; Petrarch. 13th February: The Beginnings of Secular Art in Florence. 20th February: The New Plastic Style; Donatello; Pollaiuolo. 27th February: The Stylistic Development of Florentine Painting, I. Botticelli. 6th March: The Stylistic Development of Florentine Painting, II. Ghirlandaio. 13th March: The New Learning in Northern Italy; Mantegna. 20th March: Italy and the Humanism of the North; Dürer. 27th March: The Origins of the High Renaissance.

An undated newspaper cutting which Warburg kept in his index card box 4. This notice gives the titles of the announced lectures and indicates the broad scope of the series.











On a preparatory diagram, dated 25 December 1908, Warburg lists historical authors, works of art and references to festivals in relation to each of the lectures.










 Two sheets from the manuscript of the fifth lecture, dedicated to Ghirlandaio, illustrate the typical structure of these scripts: the first page, headed “M[eine] D[amen] u[nd] H[erren]” consists of a fluently written introductory text. Folio 48 belongs to the middle section which is organised by the sequence of slides and  notes.























Slide 41 is Ghirlandaio’s Annunciation to Zacharias in the Tornabuoni chapel in St. Maria Novella in Florence (on the bottom right in Warburg’s annotated photograph of the chapel wall). In the left hand column Warburg makes a note of the painted inscriptions which he had deciphered in front of the frescos; he refers to his own visit in the top corner with the note “20.II. 901 auf der Leiter” – “20 February 1901, standing on a ladder”. The comments in the right hand column relate to Warburg’s interpretation of the fresco programme, including, at the bottom, the note “Votiv-Zauber (Wachsfig[uren])”. Here Warburg refers to the inclusion of contemporary portraits in the painted scene. He compared these to the votive wax figures, offerings that were on display in the fifteenth century in the Florentine church of Santissima Annunziata.



 Slide 41 (detail)








A folder of index cards from box 4, entitled “Historische Synthese”, contains a detailed list of slides Warburg used for the lecture series. This was compiled by an assistant, presumably after the event. The task indicates that Warburg had further plans for this material.