Panel 79

Introduction | Guide: Christopher D. Johnson

In this final panel for an encyclopaedic undertaking that Warburg well-knew could never be perfected, he spurns the temptation of seeking synthesis, preferring instead to open up a whole new series of surprising, illuminating relations between past and present, East and West, and, above all, subject (Warburg) and object (the Book of the World or, better yet, the Atlas of the World). A "Kritik der reinen Unvernunft" [WIA, III.102.5.3, Grisaille, Mantegna, fol. 8], the Bilderatlas is, above all, as Didi-Huberman asserts, a work of the imagination (but not of "la fantasie"). A work of transversal reason, unlike a dictionary, the Atlas "n'est guidé que par des principes mouvants et provisoires, ceux qui peuvent faire surgir inépuisablement de nouvelles relations – bien plus nombreuses encore que ne le sont les termes eux-mêmes – entre des choses ou des mots que rien ne semblait apparier d'abord" [is only guided by mobile and provisional principles, those that can make new relations inexhaustibly appear – relations far more numerous than are the terms themselves – between things and words where nothing seemed to appear at first]. As such, this pathway, like all pathways closely following Warburg's Wanderstrassen, describes a "Versuch" (attempt), a "Prozeß" (operation, process), and not an end or telos.