Guided Pathway

Panel 45

Superlatives of the language of gestures. Over-exuberance of self-consciousness. Individual heroes emerging out of the typological grisaille. Loss of the ‘how of metaphor.’

A study in extremes, panel 45, builds on the sequence of panels 41, 41a, 42, 43, & 44. But it does so to signal a perilous “loss” of metaphoric distance. Here frescos by Ghirlandaio emblemize the “afterlife” of classical “expressive values” in the Renaissance. Yet Ghirlandaio’s use of the grisaille technique is not able to fully moderate or mediate the intensity of the passions. Thus even as the Massacre of the Innocents metonymically yields to The Blood of the Redeemer (while also anticipating the Eucharistic theme of panel 79), and even as the serving girl in Birth of John the Baptist heralds the all-important theme of the nymph whose “life in motion” [bewegtes Leben] animates Warburg’s own thinking, the panel heightens the lethal threats (e.g., plague, tyranny, war) against the possibility of achieving psychological “balance” [Ausgleich].


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