Aby M. Warburg's Mnemosyne Picture Atlas


Exhibition, text

In 2015 Villa Romana exhibited 22 panels of the Mnemosyne picture atlas by Aby Warburg (1866 – 1929). The atlas, which Warburg constructed in the last years of his life and was unable to complete, is one of the centrepieces of the Hamburg-born cultural historian’s extensive work. The entire picture atlas comprises 63 panels and the main sequence is closely linked to the art of the city of Florence, where Warburg lived and researched intensively from 1897 to 1902. The atlas has never been exhibited in Florence. Panels 31 to 48 contain the condensed findings of Warburg’s research in the city. They primarily concern Botticelli and Ghirlandaio, as well as the Medici, Sassetti and Tornabuoni families, who were major benefactors of the new art of the Quattrocento. Although the picture atlas is one of the classics of modern art history and specifically a confirmation of its most recent branch, visual culture, the atlas has never been presented in such detail or as vividly as in the program developed by 8. Salon, which displays it in its original size, as well as with public lectures and accompanying books that give each panel a voice. It is based on a new reconstruction, as Warburg’s panels were dismantled for transport from Hamburg to London in 1933 and have not been reassembled until today. In their original size (140 x 170 cm) it is possible to identify every detail of the panels, with the result that Warburg’s intentions have been made visible (apart from a few manuscript pages there is no written commentary by Warburg himself).

media politics, renaissance

Roberto Ohrt

Roberto Ohrt, born in Santiago de Chile in 1954, lives in Hamburg and publishes on contemporary art, the history of the modern and its antecedents, organizes exhibitions and is the co-founder of 8th Salon, a platform on which the Atlas of Aby Warburg has been researched and presented to the public since 2012. The complete series of 63 panels recovered from Warburg’s original images was exhibited at HKW Berlin in autumn 2020, curated by Roberto Ohrt and Axel Heil in cooperation with the Warburg Institute. On the occasion of the exhibition, Hatje Cantz he produced two publications: a folio volume containing the 63 plates of Warburg’s Atlas – newly photographed from the original, multi-coloured images and the 20 panels from the previous versions in black and white along with essays by Axel Heil, Roberto Ohrt, Bernd Scherer, Bill Sherman and Claudia Wedepohl. Another volume with extensive commentaries by the curators will be published in Spring 2021.

Roberto Ohrt, Aby M. Warburg's Mnemosyne Picture Atlas, 2015, symposium, Villa Romana, Florence; photo: OKNOstudio

Aby M. Warburg’s Mnemosyne Picture Atlas