Lecture: Bilderfahrzeuge in the Twittersphere: The Viking “Allah” Saga and the Future of the Image

Professor Stephennie Mulder

Associate Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture

University of Texas, Austin

London, 2 May 2018, 5:30 pm

Warburg Institute
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB


Admission free; please register for this event through the Events section of the School of Advanced Study (SAS).

If Aby Warburg’s goal was to establish the autonomy of the image, that goal has certainly reached its apotheosis with the rise of digital media. On Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, images reign, and they have become powerful tools of manipulation and persuasion.

The rise and fall of the Viking “Allah” story, which captured headlines around the world for its seductive claims about the discovery of a Viking textile with Arabic writing, was propagated and argued largely by means of a highly manipulated image, but it was also a sequence of images that allowed me to deconstruct false claims about the textile, when I wrote a 60-tweet Twitter thread debunking the story in October of last year. In this image-rich environment, the work of art historians, cultural historians, and media scholars has never been more urgent, as university administrators work to deconstruct and defund the arts, humanities, and traditional paper libraries, thereby restricting our access to the analog history of images, consigning us to the endless matrix of digital duplication. How can the prescience of Warburg’s vision be put to use in the world of social media image construction and circulation, where “truthiness“ reigns over “truth”? How does Bilderfahrzeuge work in the tangled networks of the digital age?

Invitation for applications


The International Research Group “Bilderfahrzeuge: Aby Warburg’s Legacy and the Future of Iconology”, supported by the German Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung invites applications for several full-time research posts (in principle post-doctoral) based at the Warburg Institute in London, the Warburg-Haus in Hamburg and at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin for up to five years from July 2018 or as soon as possible thereafter. A detailed description of the positions can be found below or, for a PDF version, please follow the link here.

The objective of this project is to explore the migration of images, objects, and ideas in a broad historical and geographical perspective. In particular, it seeks to provide a contribution to the history of images which is based on Aby Warburg’s approach and method, rethinking them in the light of new interdisciplinary, international scholarship. The project will reconstruct and develop a rich scholarly approach which addresses the distinctiveness of images while also studying the language in which ideas about transfers between cultures and ideas about images are expressed. A focus also lies on the political impact of global visual culture.

We are particularly interested in applicants with a high level of research skills in art history, transfer phenomena between Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, in anthropology, the history of science and comparative literature. Applicants will be expected to have a good knowledge of the languages relevant to their field of study and a good speaking and reading knowledge of English and a second language, preferably German.

All participating institutions are committed to increasing the number of women in academic posts and would therefore particularly welcome applications from women. Where there is a choice between equally qualified male and female applicants, a female applicant will be chosen.

Applications should indicate the alphabetic character of the respective post, include a letter of application with a specific research proposal and indicating candidates’ interests in and suitability for the projects of the research group, a curriculum vitae and publications list, the names of three referees and a writing sample of around 5,000 words of published or unpublished research. Completed applications (electronic submissions only) must be submitted by Monday 30th April 2018.

Interviews will be held in Berlin and London in June or July 2018.

Please send your application to:

Andreas Beyer, Speaker Forschungsverbund “Bilderfahrzeuge”


Cooperating partners:

The Warburg Institute, Max Weber-Stiftung, Institut für Kunst- und Bildgeschichte, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Kunstgeschichtliches Seminar/Warburg-Haus, Universität Hamburg, Kunsthistorisches Institut Florenz/Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Kunsthistorisches Seminar Universität Basel.

The directors of the project are:

Andreas Beyer/Basel (Speaker), Horst Bredekamp/Berlin, Uwe Fleckner/Hamburg, Bill Shermann/London, Gerhard Wolf/Florence. Permanent members of the board : Charlotte Klonk/Berlin, Michaela Marek/Berlin and Hubert Locher/Marburg.


A: Research position in art history/comparative literature: The formation of Aby Warburg’s language and its impact his sources and his neologisms. Workplace: London.

B: Research position in art history/history of science/anthropology: Warburgs interest in Psychology – investigating his writings and his library. Workplace: London.

C: Research position in pre-Columbian art history with a focus on the migration of images across time, space and across media in and between pre-Columbian cultures and up to the early colonial period. Workplace: Berlin.

D: Research position in Chinese or South East Asian art histories and languages with a focus on migration, transformation and relocation of images and artefacts across time, space and media. Workplace: Berlin.

E: Research position in comparative literature, ethnology or art history regarding mobile / transcultural dynamics of memory with a focus on narratives, material culture and / or images (for example photography). Workplace: London.

F: Research position in art history with a focus on Western or global political or religio-political iconology / agency of political images (early modern times to contemporary). Workplace: Hamburg.

G: Research position in art history with a focus on global migration/provenance of art objects (early modern times to contemporary). Workplace: Hamburg

H: Research position in art history with a focus on Western or global political or religio-political iconology / agency of political images (early modern times to contemporary). Workplace: London.

I: Research Position in art history with a focus on political iconology /
agency of political images in the contemporary context based on a
historical perspective. Workplace:  Berlin.

J: Research position in art history focusing on the question of the shaping of a British canon – Arts Council; British Council; Royal and Government Collections. Workplace: London.

K: Research position in art history focusing on “The Englishness of English Art” through non-English eyes – Contributions to a national definition of British art by those coming to it from outside. Workplace: London.

L: Research position in art history, focusing on collections/reception of Western/European art in Non-Western countries. Workplace: Berlin.

This advertisement is subject to the definite approval of the project by the German Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung

Lecture: How X-Ray Imagery Changed the Practice of Art History


Professor Sven Dupré

Professor and Chair of History of Art, Science and Technology, University of Utrecht

Professor of History of Art, Science and Technology, University of Amsterdam

Martin de Wild working on a X-radiograph in his laboratory, ca. 1930.

London, 14 March 2018, 5:30 pm

Warburg Institute
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB

Admission free; please register for this event through the Events section of the School of Advanced Study (SAS).

Despite experimentation with X-Ray technology applied to the diagnosis of paintings in German science laboratories in the first decade of the twentieth century, it was only in the 1920s and 1930s that the technology became more widely and systematically applied to art. Alan Burrough’s acquisition of the first and extensive archive of X-ray images of paintings, first of the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was the most important driving force behind this. Burrough’s efforts were inspirational for Kurt Wehlte, the German Maltechniker, who in the 1930s established a laboratory for the X-Ray investigation of paintings in Berlin. In this talk, Professor Dupré will speak about how and in which ways X-ray investigations of paintings were consequential for art history.


Lecture: Portrait of the African Woman from Atlantic to Mississippi: A New Topography of the Art of Enlightenment

Portrait d’une femme noire‘ Marie-Guillemine Benoist © Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier – M. Bard

Professor Anne Lafont

Directrice d’études

EHESS, l’Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris

London, 24 January 2018, 5:30 pm

Warburg Institute
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB

Admission free; please register for this event through the Events section of the School of Advanced Study (SAS).

The figures of Africans in the early modern arts trouble the traditional chronology and geography of art history and sometimes disturb the hierarchical circulation of commodities between European metropolises and colonial territories. One cannot study art of colonial times and places with the exact same categories used to define the Italian Renaissance, the British Landscape and even the mobile case of El Greco. Authorship, centre versus periphery, the picture, the unicum… all these units need to be renegotiated in the imperial context. This lecture will focus on these issues through case studies based on the painting of female black figures in France and the French Americas at the end of the Eighteenth Century and in the first decades of the Nineteenth Century.

Metadata: how we relate to images


Metadata: how we relate to images

The Lethaby Gallery, Central Saint Martins, Granary Square, London

10 January 2018 – 3 February 2018

Disentangled N°1, 2017 Nora Al-Badri and Nikolai Nelles, Ditone print, Courtesy: Nora Al-Badri, Nikolai Nelles | NOME Gallery Berlin

An exhibition curated by the International Research Project “Bilderfahrzeuge. Aby Warburg’s Legacy and the Future of Iconology’ and presented in cooperation with Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

This exhibition arises out of a longstanding collaboration between artists and academics from Central Saint Martins and the Research Project Bilderfahrzeuge. It focuses on the role of metadata – data that provides information about other data – in art and art history. The show includes work by established and emerging artists, loans by the British Museum, NOME Gallery (Berlin), Herald Street Gallery (London) and private collections. They will stand alongside an imaginative reinvestigation of CSM’s own Museum and Study Collection, comprised of teaching objects relevant to the many arts disciplines taught at CSM as well as work by former students.

For all enquiries related to the exhibition, please contact: moss@bilderfahrzeuge.org


The exhibition is accompanied by a series of panel discussions and a workshop in which curators, artists and academics will discuss some of the overarching themes of Metadata: how we relate to images. Weiterlesen

Lecture: The Relic as Image: Prophetic Aura in an Age of Technological Reproducibility

Schematic of the sandal of the Prophet Muhammad

Professor Finbarr Barry Flood

William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of the Humanities

Institute of Fine Arts and College of Arts and Sciences, New York University

London, 14 June 2017, 5:30 pm

Warburg Institute
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB

Admission free; please register for this event through the Events section of the School of Advanced Study (SAS) here.

Among the most celebrated relics of the Prophet Muhammad was his sandal. Tracings made from the most famous sandal relic, kept in Damascus, were believed to circulate the blessings (baraka) of the Prophet. These indexes of the relic as outline were often copied in their turn, generating an enchained series that enabled the sandal and its blessings to travel well beyond the site of the relic’s enshrinement. This tradition continued into modernity, when new print technologies were applied to the reproduction of the sandal image. Such images raise significant questions about mediation and the ontology of the devotional image in modernity.

Lecture: Return of Images: Chance Encounters in the Afterlives of Antiquity

Alberto Giacometti, Study after a Sumerian Sculpture, 1937, blue ball point pen and paper

Professor Zainab Bahrani

Edith Porada Professor of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Archaeology

Columbia University

London, 10 May 2017, 5:30 pm

Warburg Institute
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB

Admission free; please register for this event through the Events section of the School of Advanced Study (SAS) here.

The chance encounter with images from the past can be understood as an aspect of the Nachleben der Antike, one of Aby Warburg’s scholarly preoccupations. In the ancient Near East, such encounters with images from a distant past had profound effects, both visual and theoretical.  Artworks transmitted historically specific forms and iconographies across time, but they were also forms of infinite presence without duration. This lecture addresses the status and influence of such rediscovered images beyond the traditional disciplinary boundaries, and brings ancient art into the current theoretical debates surrounding art and time.

Leonardo Adrift. Propaganda as “Bilderfahrzeug”

Blog Post – Victor Claass February 2017

Leonardo Adrift. Propaganda as “Bilderfahrzeug

In the harbor of Genoa in early December, 1929, under the intimidating gaze of “steel helmeted fascist militiamen”, a team of art handlers carefully loaded 350 masterpieces of Italian art into the aptly named steamer Leonardo-da-Vinci. Among them were the t
hree sculptures of David by Donatello, Michelangelo and Verrocchio, as well as major paintings by Duccio, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, Pietro Lorenzetti, Raphael and many other celebrated old masters. Borrowed – thanks to the personal involvement of Benito Mussolini – from the Italian public and private collections, theses artifacts were meticulously placed in the ship’s cargo hold, “lashed firmly and wedged with mattresses
and lifebelts, preventing the slightest movement” (Sheffield Independent, 1929) . Escorted by several tugs, the Leonardo began its journey towards London, where its priceless freight was to be displayed at the much awaited Royal Academy’s exhibit, Italian Art 1200-1900.

The arrival of the Leonardo-da-Vinci in London. Upper left corner: Lady Chamberlain greeting Ettore Modigliani. Sheffield Independent, December 13, 1929.


Lecture Series 2016-17

The Bilderfahrzeuge Lecture Series at the Warburg Institute 2016-17


(also available as a PDF)

5 October 2016 Roger Sabin Central Saint Martins UAL The Origins of Comics Criticism  
16 November 2016 Mechthild Fend UCL Medusa’s Hair. Images, Diseases and Terror in Post-Revolutionary France
14 December 2016 Stephen Bann Bristol Paul Delaroche’s Egyptian Excursion: the studies in preparation for Moses on the Nile (1853)
11 January 2017 Sachiko Kusukawa  Cambridge Copying as a form of knowing: early modern scientific images
8 February 2017 Tristan Weddigen Zürich Heinrich Wölfflin in the Hispanic World
1 March 2017 Tamar Garb UCL Constance Stuart’s War: Women and Documentary’s Excess.
10 May 2017  Zainab Bahrani Columbia Return of Images: Chance Encounters in the Afterlives of Antiquity
14 June 2017 Finbarr Barry Flood New York University The Relic as Image: Prophetic Aura in an Age of Technological Reproducibility


Lecture: Constance Stuart’s War: Women and Documentary’s Excess

Professor Tamar Garb

Durning-Lawrence Chair of History of Art
Department of History of Art,

University College London (UCL)

London, 1 March 2017, 5:30 pm

Warburg Institute
Woburn Square
London WC1H 0AB

Admission free; please register for this event through the Events section of the School of Advanced Study (SAS) here.

This lecture looks at a remarkable photograph taken by the South African war correspondent in WW2, Constance Stuart (Larrabee) at the moment of the liberation of France. The photograph, one of nine in a series, depicts one of the femmes tondues the sheared women collectively punished for having ‘associated with the Germans’. It is read in relation to other photographs in the series as well as the agenda of Libertas, the first picture magazine in South Africa, for whom Stuart worked. But there is more to Stuart’s relationship to the image than the need to document the occasion. What seeps out from the image is something that exceeds documentary’s desire, inadvertently articulating both the photographer’s and the protagonist’s position in history.