Panel 46

Introduction | Guide: Andrea Pinotti

Panel 46 is composed of 27 images. Considered from a chronological point of view, two of them are postcards with reproductions of Roman bas-reliefs (#11.1 and 11.2), two are images of early and late medieval bas-reliefs (#1, 2 and 3). The remaining photographs reproduce works all belonging to the Renaissance. A striking exception is offered by a picture taken by Warburg himself (#18): a shocking anachronistic intrusion. Analyzed from an iconographical perspective, the panel includes scenes from: classical culture (#3, 20; 21); the Old Testament (#8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.5, 14, 15); the New Testament (#2, 4, 5, 6.1, 8.4, 12, 13, 19); and the lives of historical characters from the Florentine Renaissance (#9, 10, 20, 21). From a gendered perspective, the panel is pervasively dominated by the Feminine, either identifiable as a specific character (#2, 3, 5, 6.1, 8.1, 8.3, 8.5, 9, 10, 12, 14, 19, 20, 21) or anonymous (#6.2, 7, 11.1, 11.2, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18). From a functional perspective, the panel collects complex variations of a peculiar movement-theme: the gesture of “bringing or carrying or bearing something/someone to something/someone else.” The importance of such an action can hardly be overestimated in Warburg’s thought. If we peruse the whole spectrum of its syntactic, semantic, symbolic, and pragmatic implications, we will find a range of meanings – all crucial in his research – stretching from the simple physical activity of a human being carrying an inert material object for some purpose to the most spiritualized transmission of a cultural meaning through an 'image-vehicle' [Bilderfahrzeug]. Bearing is bearing oneself in terms of personal conduct or behavior or posture (physical, but also social and cultural); bearing in the sense of enduring pain or carrying the weight of pathos; bearing as the direction or position of something, thus evoking the cardinal notion of “orientation”; but also the bearing of one human being by another human being (in the sense of giving birth: or re-birth/Renaissance). Although panel 46 insists on the beneficial consequences of such a gesture, the antithetical, polar meaning of such an action should not be neglected: “gift” (from the Old Norse gipt; related to give, German geben), in English connotes “present” or “donation”; but in German Gift antonymously means “poison,” “toxin,” suggesting, then, a potential dramatic inversion of its axiological structure (see Mauss 1924; Benveniste 1948-1949).