The spell of the images: Aby Warburg and the historiography of human soul


  • María del Rosario Acosta López Universidad de los Andes



Warburg, symbol, polarity, art historiography


This paper adresses Aby Warburg’s reflections on the relationship between image, history and historiography. The point of departure and main point of analysis is his text on Luther and Pagan Prophecy (published as part of the volume on The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity) [Die Erneuerung der heidnischen Antike] (1932)). The main objective of the paper is to show all the layers and “polarities” put into play in Warburg’s analysis of the image as symbol. It will be shown how all this layers coincide, at the same time, with the movement of history as described by Warburg, and even with the movement of certain “atemporal” human condition present in Warburg’s thinking. Therefore, the paper is interested in showing the complexities involved in Warburg’s project of a “new science” of the history of the images; a project that Warburg would have simultaneously projected and practiced, not only in his earlier theoretical essays,
but also in his more empirical later texts such as The Serpent Ritual and the Mnemosyne project.

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Author Biography

María del Rosario Acosta López, Universidad de los Andes

Departamento de Filosofía
Universidad de los Andes
Bogotá, Colombia


AGAMBEN, G. (2005) “Aby Warburg y la ciencia sin nombre”. En: La potencia del pensamiento. Buenos Aires, Adriana Hidalgo, pp. 157-187.

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VISCHER, F.T. (2009) “Das Symbol”. En: Berndt, F. (ed.). Symbol. Grundlagentexte aus Ästhetik, Poetik und Kulturwissenschaft. Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp, pp. 200-214.

WARBURG, A. (2008) “Profecía pagana en palabras e imágenes en la época de Lutero” [1920] en [RP] El renacimiento del paganismo. Madrid, Alianza, pp. 445-490.

WARBURG, A. (1999) The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity. Los Angeles, The Getty Research Institute Publication Programs.

WARBURG, A. (2004) El ritual de la serpiente. México, Sexto Piso.

WORRINGER, W. (1953) [1908] Abstracción y naturaleza. México, Fondo de Cultura Económica.



How to Cite

Acosta López, M. del R. (2011). The spell of the images: Aby Warburg and the historiography of human soul. Estudios De Filosofía, (44), 117–135.



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