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Art History ISSN 0141-6790 Vol. 24 No. 5 November 2001 pp.


Dialektik des Monstrums: Aby Warburg and the

symptom paradigm

Georges Didi-Huberman

In 1923 Aby Warburg defined the aim of his library, but also his work in general,
as eine Urkundensammlung zur Psychologie der menschlichen Ausdruckskunde.1
What else, then, is the `science without a name' invented by Warburg, if not a
living metamorphosis of traditional art history ± this ostensible history of objects
± into a history of the psyche, as embodied in styles, forms, `pathos formulae',
symbols, fantasies, beliefs; in short, all that Warburg intended by the term
Ausdruck (`expression')?2 A metamorphosis in which `historical psychology'
profoundly modifies the positivist point of view of history and `expression'
profoundly modifies the idealist point of view of art.
`Historical psychology'? This means that the time of the after-life is a psychic
time; a hypothesis that must be situated on several levels all at once. First, the
chosen motifs of Nachleben are the great psychic powers: pathetic
representations, dynamogrammes of desire, moral allegories, figures of mourning,
astrological symbols, etc.3 Next, the domains of Nachleben are style, gesture and
the symbol, as vectors of exchange between heterogeneous spaces and times.4
Finally, the processes of Nachleben can only be understood from the basis of their
`connaturality' with psychic processes in which the actuality of the primitive
manifests itself. Thus Warburg's interest for the latent or critical aspects of the
Pathosformel, as well as those that pertain to the drives and to fantasy.
It is highly significant that Warburg undertook a vast, never finished, and
never published `foundational' project on the psychology of art while working on
his dissertation on Botticelli, a work through which dream motifs, themes of
unconscious desire, of the erotische Verfogungscene (`erotic chase'), of sacrifice
and death discretely, yet confidently, make their way. In the three hundred or so
folios of this manuscript, written between 1888 (when he was just twenty-two
years old) and 1905, Warburg devised an entire psychological and philosophical
vocabulary (we would not want to call it a system) aimed at working out such
formidable problems as `art and thought', the relationship between `form and
content', the `theory of the symbol', the status of `anthropomorphism', the
`association of ideas', `images of thought', etc.5
A vocabulary of `expression' remains omnipresent in all his attempts to
formulate a psychology of art, continuing up to the 1927 Allgemeine Ideen.6 If all
history falls within the realm of a psychology then, for Warburg, the entire history
of images necessarily falls within the realm of a psychology of expression. As I

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have started to indicate, what is being formulated here is a psyche unconfined to

the familiar, heroic tales of artistic `personality'. This formulation points toward a
more basic and transversal, impersonal and trans-individual psyche; a psychic
condition common to what we customarily call body and soul, image and word,
representation and movement, and anthropologically central to what has been
somewhat impoverished by classical aesthetics under the concept of imitation.7
This not only means that Nachleben should be thought of as a psychic time, it
means that the Pathosformel should be thought of as a psychic gesture. Gertrud
Bing recognized this fundamental trait. According to her, `pathos formulae' make
visible `not a quality of the external world like movement, distance or space, but a
state of the emotions'.8 Bing, the historian slightly alarmed by the swampy psychic
terrain she has just touched on, concluded: `We are here treading on dangerous
ground.'9 Yet, the Warburgian demand, dangerous or not, lies therein: the
Pathosformel must not be translated in terms of a semantics or semiotics of
corporeal gestures, but in terms of a psychic symptomatology. Pathos formulae are
the visible symptoms ± corporeal, gestural, presented, figured ± of a psychic time
irreducible to the simple thread of rhetorical, sentimental, or individual turns.
But, where does one find the theoretical paradigm for this demand? This was
Warburg's lengthy and obstinate quest. Its vocabulary would undoubtedly remain
that of expression, but its point of view was that of the symptom. For expression,
according to Warburg, is not the reflection of an intention, but is instead the
return of the repressed in the image. This is why Nachleben appears as the time of
a contretemps in history (thought of in terms of the development of styles), and
Pathosformel as the gesture of a counter-movement in history (thought of in terms
of the storia that an image represents).
`Expression', then. But symptomatic expression. [Translator's note: The word
Georges Didi-Huberman uses in French is `symptomale'. He wants to make a
distinction between symptomale, which is a critical term, and symptomatic, which
is a clinical term.] What kind of symptom? Symptom of what? And, above all,
symptom how? Without being certain what he would find, Warburg first turned
to medicine for answers. As early as 1888, it was the medical metaphor that
sprang to mind when he tried to express his hope for an epistemological
breakthrough, his desire to finish with the `aestheticising history of art' of
connoisseurs and sogennanten Gebildeten (`so-called cultured') specialists:

We of the younger generation want to attempt to advance the science of art

so far that anyone who talks in public about art without having specially
and profoundly studied this science should be considered just as ridiculous
as people are who dare to talk about medicine without being doctors.10

When Warburg spoke of his desire for epistemological displacement, it was

again medicine, along with anthropology, that would dismantle the judgements of
taste proper to the `aestheticizing history of art'. He needed ethnology ± via his
voyage to Hopi country ± to teach him the meaning of the primitive, and medicine
to teach him the meaning of the symptom, so that traditional art history could cede
to an anthropology of images capable of `organically' grasping the stylistic and
symbolic phenomena of the Florentine Renaissance and the German Reformation:

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Amongst other things, I was sincerely disgusted with the aestheticizing

history of art (der aÈsthetisierenden Kunstgeschichte). It seemed to me that
the formal contemplation of the image ± which does not consider it a
biologically necessary product (als biologisch notwendiges Produkt)
between religion and art practice (which I only understood later) ± led to
such sterile prattling that after my trip to Berlin in the summer of 1896 I
decided to switch to medicine. I had no idea that after my trip to America
the organic relationship between the art and religion of `primitive' peoples
would appear with such clarity that I plainly saw the identity, or rather the
indestructibility of primitive man who remains eternally the same
throughout all epochs (die UnzerstoÈrbarkeit des primitiven Menschen zu
[der] allen Zeiten), in such a way that I could demonstrate that he was as
much an organ of the Florentine Renaissance as he was, later, of the
German Reformation.11

In fact, between 1891 and 1892 Warburg had already taken preparatory courses
in psychology for medical students. It seems clear, then, that for the young historian
of images medicine signified medicine of the soul above all. As nearly every
connoisseur of Warburg's work would attest,12 from this moment on the question
remains as to which psychological or, rather, psychopathological framework
Warburg needed to found his stylistic analysis and symptomatology of renascent
culture. To claim that he was trying to get at the `symptoms of a collective spirit' is
far too imprecise.13 Reducing the question of the symptom to one of a Hegelian
`meaning of history,' as Gombrich attempted, is even more unjustified.14 And, calling
upon the obscure, if original, evolutionist Tito Vignoli as evidence for Warburg's
recourse to the pyschopathological paradigm is equally insufficient.15
Only from 1918 onwards, from the very pit of his own psychological collapse,
did Warburg begin to see the proximity between his intellectual project and
psychoanalysis. By glossing over this episode, Gombrich effected a considerable
act of epistemological censure.16 Once more, it was a question of burying the
demons of the Freudian unconscious ± as well as of the Nietzschean Dionysiac ±
under the ancient ramparts of a Mitteleuropa in ruins. It was a question of
providing the, henceforth Anglo-Saxon, `Warburgian tradition' with the return to
order of a philosophy of the faculties (Panofsky traded Nietzsche and the eternal
return for Kant and the a priori), bolstered by a `positive' psychology (Gombrich
traded Freud and fantasy for Popper and perception). In order to break through
this censure, we must try to re-imagine the path that brought Warburg to Freud.

* * *

Warburg's dreamed-of `historical psychology of expression', the theoretical

foundation for his anthropology of images, was envisaged, above all, as a
psychopathology. The Warburgian history of images attempts to analyse the
pleasure of formal invention, during the Renaissance for example, as well as the
`culpability' of repressed memory that can be manifest there. It evokes movements
of artistic creation, as well as `auto-destructive' compulsions at work in the very
exuberance of forms. It highlights the coherence of aesthetic systems, as well as

ß Association of Art Historians 2001 623


1 NiccoloÁ
dell'Arca, The
Lamentation of
Christ, Detail of
Mary Magdelene,
c. 1480. Terracotta,
Bologna: Santa
Maria della Vita.
Photo: Antonio

the sometimes `irrational' nature of the beliefs upon which they are founded. It
studies the unity of stylistic epochs, as well as the `conflicts' and the `formation of
compromises' that can traverse and dissociate them. It considers the beauty and
charm of masterpieces, as well as the `anxiety' and the `phobia' for which, says
Warburg, they provide a kind of `sublimation'.
Naturally, the theoretical archaeology of this vocabulary requires examina-
tion. It already reveals that if the symbol was at the centre of Warburg's pre-
occupations, it was not there as an abstract synthesis of reason and unreason, of
form and matter, etc.17 but as a concrete symptom of a cleavage ceaselessly at
work in the `tragedy of culture'. When Warburg rests his eyes on a pathetic Mary

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2 Bertoldo di
Crucifixion (Detail),
c. 1485. Bronze
relief. Museo
Nazionale del
Bargello. Photo: the

Magdelene by NiccoloÁ dell'Arca, Donatello, or Bertoldo di Giovanni (plates 1 and

2), it becomes clear that gestural `expression' is only symbolic in that it is first
symptomatic. Here, the gestural formula `expresses' solely to crystallize a moment
of intensity for the female saint, which appears, above all, as a veritable rupture in
the symbolic order of evangelical history. It is the moment of a contretemps in
which the unbridled desire of Antique maenads is repeated in Mary Magdelene's
body.18 It is the gesture of a counter-movement which recalls, in Mary
Magdelene's body, a paganism that is duly ignored by the entire symbolic
content ± the sacrifice of the incarnate Word. Therefore, it seems to be a question
of something like a symptom.

ß Association of Art Historians 2001 625


One could say that Warburgian art history, in its temporal models
(Nachleben) as well as in its models of sense (Pathosformel), sought to apprehend
its objects from their critical effects: from Botticelli's and Polliauolo's `erotic
chases' (where Savonarola justly saw the insolence of an `orgiastic desire at
work')19 to the `superlatives of gesticular language' in Donatello or others where
surged a `perfectly inopportune mobility of expression';20 from the irruption of
Arab astrology in a fifteenth-century Ferrara fresco to the German Reformation's
obscure dealings with astrological beliefs.21 Each time we witness the extent to
which `the necessity to confront the formal world of predetermined expressive
values ± whether they come from the past or present ± represents the decisive crisis
(die entscheidende Krisis) . . . for each artist'.22 In the dance of these decisive crises,
Warburg saw all of Western culture shaken by a symptomatic oscillation that he
himself experienced in its full force, and at first hand:

Sometimes it seems that, as a psycho-historian (ich als Psychohistoriker),

I have tried to diagnose the schizophrenia of Western culture (die
Schizophrenie des Abendlandes) through its images, as an autobiographical
reflex. The ecstatic (manic) nymph on the one side, and on the other, the
(depressive) river god in mourning (die ekstatische Nympha [manisch]
einerseits und der trauernde Flussgott [depressiv] anderseits).23

Underlying critical effects is an order of causes that Warburg grasped, in 1929,

using the psychopathological vocabulary of schizophrenia (a Deulezian obser-
vation, it seems, before its time) or manic-depressive psychosis (an observation, in
fact, directly linked to his therapy with Ludwig Binswanger). As early as 1889,
Warburg had referred to this order of causes in terms of unnatural `un-motivated '
(ohne Motivierung) movements linked to desire (Zusammenhang met dem
Wunsch).24 Forty years later, just before his death, the Freudian concept of the
unconscious was at the `psycho-historian's' disposal. Yet, as if he feared that the
substantive notion (das Unbewuûte) distanced him from the dynamic he sought to
characterize, he preferred, once more, to seek out the heap of moving serpents: he
preferred to speak of a `dialectic of the monster' (Dialektik des Monstrums).25
The order of causes is thus the eternal conflict with a formidable, sovereign and
un-nameable thing. The omnipresent themes of Warburg's last years were: the
`combat with the monster' (Kampf mit dem Monstrum) in ourselves, the `psychic
drama' (Seelendrama) of culture as a whole, the `complex and dialectical'
(Complex und Dialektik) knot of the subject with this mysterious Monstrum,
defined in 1927 as the `original causal form' (UrkausalitaÈtform).26 To Warburg's
mind, the fundamental and `uncanny duality' (unheimliche Doppelheit) of all
cultural facts was as follows: the logic they set allows the chaos they combat to
overflow; the beauty they invent lets the horror they repress burst through; the
freedom they promote leaves the constraining drives they try to break intact.27
Warburg liked to repeat the adage Per monstra ad astra (to which Freud's Wo es
war, soll Ich werden seems to offer a variant): but how are we to understand this, if
it is not that one must, in any event, be confronted with the powers of the monster?
Critical effects and unconscious causes: the `dialectic of the monster' describes
nothing less than the structure of a symptom. For the symptom accounts

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simultaneously for repression and the return of the repressed: repression in the
`plastic formulae of compensation' (plastische Ausgleichsformel) that barely cross
the `threshold of consciousness' (Schwelle seines Bewuûtseins), and the return of
the repressed in the `crisis' (Krisis) and the `symptomatic' (symptomatisch) figure
that surge with a `maximal degree of energy tension' (hoÈchsten energetischen
Anspannung). In 1907, Warburg compressed this vocabulary into just four lines of
his article on Francesco Sassetti.28 Later, visual incarnations of the `dialectic of the
monster' would be incarnated in DuÈrer's engraving of the eight-legged Sow of
Landser or in the horrible composite figures of anti-Catholic propaganda wood
In reference to these figures Warburg spoke of a `region of prophetic monsters'
(Region der wahrsagenden Monstra).30 It seems possible to read his expression on
the two levels called for by such a double-sided discipline as `historical
psychology'. On the historical side, the monsters of Lutheran propaganda are
`prophetic' of a politico-religious defeat of the Papacy. On the psychological side,
they are unaware that they unleash an unconscious truth (Wahrheit) through the
bias ± the visual figure ± of these legendary (Sage) composite-bodied monsters.
This is why these are exemplary `prophetic' (wahrsagenden) objects for Warburg.
It is also why art history must not only be a history of phantoms, but a history of
prophecies and symptoms too.31
In any case, the Pathosformeln must henceforth be understood as corporeal
crystallizations of the `dialectic of the monster'. Symptom-moments of the
anthropomorphic image, the pathos formulae were envisaged by Warburg
according to the dialectical perspective of repression (`plastic formulae of
compromise') and of the return of the repressed (`crisis', `maximum degree of
tension'). The image in movement32 to which Warburg wanted to devote an atlas,
an occidental genealogical album, details nothing else but symptom-movements.
But, according to what paradigm should we understand them? In Warburg's own
time, attempts to analyse the pathological recesses of `movements of expression'
were far from lacking: beginning with the `physiognomic mechanism' studied by
Theodor Meynert in his Psychiatrie (1844), moving on to Cassirer's `pathology of
symbolic consciousness' (1929), after taking in Karl Jasper's analysis of expressive
disorders in his General Psychopathology (1913).33
Undoubtedly, the French psychological school could also have served
Warburg's designs. For had TheÂodule Ribot not formulated a theory of uncon-
scious memory, a `psychological heritage' ± his own Nachleben of `faculties' and
`instincts' ± by seeking all in the way into cultural history for his examples?34 And
had Ribot not offered an explanation for expressive gestures ± his own notion of
the Pathosformeln ± by elaborating an entire theory of the unconscious of
movement, in which the psyche was to be apprehended from the angle of a `latent
motor activity' that left its `motor residues' at every level of psychic life?35
However, it was above all the hysteria clinic at the end of the nineteenth
century ± as triumphant as it was spectacular ± that furnished the most pertinent
symptomatological model for Warburg's `dialectic of the monster'. Indeed, the
expressive Pathosformeln of crisis and the Nachleben of a latent trauma that
returns in the intensity of effected movements meet in the hysterical symptom (it
should be noted that the participle nach of the verb nachleben can refer to

ß Association of Art Historians 2001 627


3 Aby Warburg, Mnemosyne,

1928±29, panel 6 (detail). London,
The Warburg Institute.

simulation, and that since the eighteenth century alienists had approached hysteria
from this very angle). At the end of the nineteenth century Charcot emerged as the
uncontested mastermind of the workings of the symptom, and the uncontested
ballet master of the hysterical spectacle. 36
Sigrid Schade has recently defended and argued for an affinity between
Charcot's conception of the hysterical body and Warburg's Pathosformeln. Aside
from the fact that there were two works by Charcot and his collaborator Paul
Richer in Warburg's library,37 there are several other essential links between
Charcot's psychopathology and Warburg's Kulturwissenschaft. For example,
both forms of knowledge present themselves as explorations of a clinical archive;
both relied on an abundant use of photography; and both resulted in the creation
of iconographic repertories.38 One could conceivably imagine Warburg's atlas of
pathos formulae as an equivalent to Richer's famous synoptic table, created under
his master's guidance, of the `grande attaque hysterique compleÁte and reÂgulieÁre'.39
(plates 3 and 4).
According to Schade, the great virtue of this rapprochement is that it responds
to a censure ± a `blind spot' ± in the Warburgian tradition.40 Indeed, art history has

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4 Tabular overview of the `whole

and regular major hysterical fit',
from J.M. Charcot and P. Richer,
EÂtudes cliniques sur la grande
hysteÂrie ou hysteÂro-eÂpilepsie, Paris,
1881, plate V.

wanted nothing to do with the pathological repercussions of Warburg's

understanding of pathos. It has refused to see that it owes its very status as a
`humanist discipline' to Warburg's creation of something like a `pathological
discipline'.41 Sigrid Schade is therefore right to speak of Charcot as Warburg's
predecessor when it comes to interdisciplinarity, iconographic collection, the
observation of the body during moments of pathos, of passion, and even of
Dionysiac madness.42 It must also be noted that Nietzsche's allusions, in the Birth
of Tragedy, to the dance of Saint-Guy and to the small possessed figure in
RaphaeÈl's Transfiguration find their exact pendants in Richer and Charcot's panels
on the same themes in their work on Les DeÂmoniaques dans l'art.43 (plates 5 and 6).
How, in the end, can one not be struck by the analogy between the Warburg's
Dionysian Ninfa and Richer's drawings of hysterics at the SalpeÃtrieÁre? (plates 7 and
8). It is tempting to claim that the regressive path adopted by Charcot's `retrospective
medicine' ± modern hysterics, Christian mystics, Antique maenads ± finds its
historical and aesthetic justification in the Warburgian analysis of Nachleben.
However, upon closer scrutiny, it seems that the ground on which this analogy rests
is not only sown with traps, but that it crumbles with each further step.

ß Association of Art Historians 2001 629


5 (left) RaphaeÈl, Possessed figure. From J.M. Charcot and P. Richer, EÂtudes cliniques sur la
grande hysteÂrie ou hysteÂro-eÂpilepsie, Paris, 1881, p. 29.
6 (right) After Peter Breughel, St. Guy's Dance. From J.M. Charcot and P. Richer, Les
DeÂmoniaques dans l'art, Paris, 1887, p. 35.

For Charcot, the utilization of figures always relates to a epistemic operation

that aims to reduce the essentially proto-form, mutable and metamorphic
character of the hysteric symptom ± this moving heap of serpents traversing the
body ± to the simple level of an ordered tableau with temporal and visual force of
law. Whether by recourse to hypnosis, experimentation with electric-shock
therapy or through the establishment of an `iconography', Charcot's stake
remained the same: he wanted to master the differences of the symptom. And this
was only concretely possible by making the hysterics themselves more mad,
making them conform to the images that preceded them in his `artistic
iconography'. Therefore, the symptom's differences could only be mastered
through the development of an historical sophism, to which was added an
iconographic sophism in which real, suffering bodies were forced to create
themselves in the image of figures collected in atlases as `proofs' of a definitively
established clinical tableau. [Translator's note. Didi-Huberman insists on the
word tableau, rather than chart or table, in reference to Michel Foucault in
L'ArcheÂologie du savoir. Foucault writes: `Aux derniers flaÃneurs, faut-il signaler
qu'un ``tableau'' (et sans doute dans tous les sens du terme), c'est formellement une
``seÂrie de seÂries''? En tout cas, ce n'est point une petite image fixe qu'on place
devant une lanterne pour la plus grande deÂception des enfants, qui, aÁ leur aÃge,

630 ß Association of Art Historians 2001

7 (right) Anon. (Greek), Dancing Maenad,
Graphic rubbing from a relief at the Louvre,
from A. Warburg, Bilder aus dem Gebiet der
Pueblo-Indianer in Nord-Amerika, 1923,
(Berlin, 1988), fig. 21.

8 (bottom right) Prodromes de la grande

attaque hysteÂrique. From P. Richer, EÂtudes
cliniques sur la grande hysteÂrie ou hysteÂro-
eÂpilepsie, Paris, 1888, fig. 1.

preÂfeÁrent bien suÃr la vivacite du

cineÂma.' L'ArcheÂologie du savoir
(Paris, 1969), p. 19, n. 1.]
If there is a striking resemblance
between Richer's hysteric and War-
burg's maenad, this is above all because
Richer wanted to draw his hysterics just
as an archaeologist would graphically
reproduce an antique sculpture. Noth-
ing of this sort with Warburg: the
montage of the Mnemosyne atlas
respects discontinuities and differences;
it does not efface temporal hiatuses (for
example, between an archaeological
sketch and a contemporary photo-
graph). Charcot's tableau aims at con-
tinuities and resemblances; it introduces
a temporal unity within the unfolding of
a `whole and regular major hysterical
fit'. Accordingly, Warburg's `science
without a name' subverts the entire
premise of Charcot's medical icono-
graphy. For Charcot, the hysteric is a
master signifier to which everything ±
from the represented maenad to the
present patient ± must be reduced. For
Warburg, on the contrary, Ninfa re-
mains a floating signifier traipsing from
one incarnation to another without
anything trying to draw her limits.
In the end, it must be recognized
that Charcot's and Warburg's symp-
tomatologies oppose each other on
almost every level. For Charcot, the
symptom is a clinical category reducible
to a regular tableau and a well-defined
nosological criterion, whereas for War-
burg the symptom is a critical category

ß Association of Art Historians 2001 631


that explodes the `regular tableau' of

stylistic history as well as art's
academic criteria. Whereas Charcot
always wanted to bring the symptom
back to its (traumatic, neurological,
toxic) determination, Warburg made
the symptom a constant, constantly
open work of over-determination. On
the one hand, we have the quasi-
totalitarian protocol of the `complete
and regular' attack; on the other, an
erratic intertwining, a heap of moving
serpents whose coordinates one would
be hard pressed to pin down as on
Charcot's tableau.44
One final remark makes the
distance between these two epistemo-
logical models of the symptom palp-
able. In Charcot's model of the
hysterical symptom, there is no place
for Darwin's famous `general principles
of expression', whose importance for
Warburg has been noted.45 Imprinting
certainly registers a traumatic memory
at work in the hysterical attack, con-
centrated in the moment known as
`passionate attitudes' or `plastic
poses'.46 But what about displacement?
9±11 Grande attaque hysteÂrique: contorsions What about antithesis? The plasticity
ou mouvements illogiques. From P. Richer, that these two Darwinian principles
EÂtudes cliniques sur la grande hysteÂrie ou
hysteÂro-eÂpilepsie, figs 39, 40 and 45. require is absent from Charcot and
Richer's conception of `plastic poses'.
Displacement and antithesis appear only negatively, cast into the senseless
depths of the attack during this famous, detested moment when the hysteric defies
the master and when the master, overtaken by the event, can only respond with
the double qualification that the hysteric is `illogical' (she is just doing whatever)
and `clownish' (she is just making fun of us). This is known as the period of
contortions, which Richer schematized (plates 9±14) because photography was
often useless for capturing the blur of movements that were either too reckless, or
hidden under the straight-jacket ultimately forced on the patients:47

It is, if one will forgive the vulgar expression, the period of tours de force;
and it is not without reason that Mr. Charcot has given it the picturesque
name `clownism,' in reference to acrobats' muscular exercises. Indeed, this
period consists of two phases: the illogical attitudes or contortions, and the
great movements, both requiring flexibility, agility and muscular strength
such as to bewilder the spectator and which, during the time of the Saint-

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MeÂdard convulsionnaires, appeared

to be so beyond nature's resources
that only divine intervention could
seem to account for them. [. . .]
There, the patient assumed the
most varied, unexpected, and
unlikely positions.48

And here is the decisive turn: it will

be Freud's accomplishment to have
worked out an understanding of the
hysterical symptom capable of sur-
passing the rigid model of the clinical
tableau, capable of taking stock of the
moving complexities or over-deter-
minations, and of respecting the
essential plasticity of the processes
engaged. How did Freud go beyond
Charcot's iconographism? Firstly by
returning, as Lucille Ritvo has admir-
ably shown, to the Darwinian prin-
ciples of imprinting or `commemorative
repetition', of displacement or `deriva-
tion', and, finally, of `antithesis' or the
possible reversal into the opposite.49
The imprint enabled Freud to
understand the ways in which the symp-
tom actualizes an unconscious memory
at work. Displacement allowed him to 12±14 Grande attaque hysteÂrique: contorsions
explain the constant interplay of figural ou mouvements illogiques. From P. Richer,
EÂtudes cliniques sur la grande hysteÂrie ou
entanglements and signifying metamor- hysteÂro-eÂpilepsie, figs 43, 44 and 46.
phoses: a dynamic way of envisaging
the complexity of phenomena. As for antithesis, it enabled him to describe how, in
the symptom, the unconscious dupes or ignores logical contradiction and the time
of commonplace biomorphisms. Importantly, Freud took up the problem of the
symptom exactly where Charcot had left off: in the very crux of `illogical
movements' ± this negative moment in the `dialectic of the monster', this `maximal
degree of tension' in the Pathosformeln, as Warburg might have said.

* * *

With Freud, the hysterical symptom, the royal road of psychoanalysis, `formation
of the unconscious' in the fullest sense,50 ceased to depend on an iconography. The
hysterical symptom is neither tableau (representative or standardizing), nor
`reflection' (even of a trauma). Instead, Freud developed dynamogrammes of
multiple polarities heaped or erratically fitted together, sometimes swarming like
serpents: touches with taboos, facilitations with defences, desires with censures,

ß Association of Art Historians 2001 633


crises with compromises, fusions with defusions. The moment of the symptom as
such appears at the dialectical crux of these polarities. Freud first observed it in a
context that was likely not that of the cure (one can imagine a common room at
the SalpeÃtrieÁre, or even Charcot's amphitheatre):

In one case which I observed, for instance, the patient pressed her dress up
against her body with one hand (as the woman), while she tried to tear it
off with the other (as the man).51 This simultaneity of contradictory actions
serves to a large extent to obscure the situation, which is otherwise so
plastically portrayed in the attack, and is thus well suited to conceal the
unconscious phantasy that is at work.

Admirable lesson in looking.52 There, where Richer spoke of hysterical

contortion in terms of the `most varied, most unexpected, most unlikely positions'
± thus, as impossible to understand in an iconography ± Freud was able to release
the formula for this corporeal pathos, the formula for this gestural chaos
exploding in the attack. Freud managed to recognize an exemplary structure in
this tangle of disorderly movements, in this `body transformed into image'. Pierre
FeÂdida uses the same expression for approaching the question of the symptom.53
This structure is worth considering in detail, for the lesson in looking goes hand in
hand with a profound anthropological lesson on the `dialectic of the monster'.
The visual intensity of corporeal forms and effected movements is the first
element of this structure. The hysteric in crisis offers the spectator a `situation so
plastically figured' (so plastisch dargestellten Situation) that the gaze is at once
transfixed (captured, fascinated) and relinquished (taken aback). This happens
because the `situation' figured in the attack seems destined toward UnverstaÈnd-
lichkeit (`incomprehensibility'). Freud begins with an undeniable phenomenological
given, as evident to his eyes but as difficult to interpret as the Dionysiac intensity of
the dishevelled Magdelene standing at the foot of a crucifix was to Warburg. Let us
not forget that Goethe began with the same observation with regard to the
desperate gestures of the LaocooÈn (plate 15): the active intensity of the sculpted
group `will never reveal all its mysteries to the human mind. We view it, and it
touches our soul. It speaks to our mind, yet we cannot comprehend it totally.'54
The second essential element in this structure (and the second motive for
making the situation `incomprehensible') is contradictory simultaneity. Here,
extreme movement becomes counter-movement. Intensity becomes its antithesis, a
labour that is both organic and transgressive at the same time. What takes place?
Two contradictory motions confront each other in the same body. Freud describes
this dialectic ± exactly as Warburg would have for a Magdelene by NiccoloÁ
dell'Arca ± with his observation of the fate of the `accessory in movement'; that is,
the robe's drapery torn by the male half from the female half, held back by the
female half from the aggression of the male half. What results will be an
entanglement in movement, a `dynamogramme' of mixed polarities. `The
symptom,' wrote Freud in 1899, `represents the realization of two contradictory
desires',55 which are reconsidered here according to terms that reveal the law of
the double constitution of each formation of the unconscious ± a law that
Warburg certainly acknowledged in the domain of images in general.56

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15 Anon. (Roman), after a Greek original from c. 300 BC. Laocoon and his sons, c. AD 50,
Marble, The Vatican Museum, Rome. Photo: the author.

ß Association of Art Historians 2001 635


Here the Darwinian principle of antithesis is given such a radical extension

that the very idea of `pathetic expression' seems to explode. Etymologically, the
symptom refers to what falls away, and not what signifies.57 With the symptom,
signs themselves fly into pieces: they spurt forth in sparks, and then collapse
before another set of fireworks goes off. Freud had already shown this when he
explained how a symptom is over-determined both synchronically (the symptom
meaning several things at the same time) and diachronically (each symptom
modifying itself over time).58 In short, the Freudian symptom takes into account
exactly what Warburg was trying to get at in the constant oscillation between
`extreme polarizations' and `depolarizations' productive of `ambivalences'. Is it
any surprise, then, that the vocabulary of conflict and compromise was as
necessary to the Warburgian definition of the Pathosformeln as it was to the
Freudian Symptombildung?

We already know that neurotic symptoms are the outcome of a conflict

which arises over a new method of satisfying the libido. The two forces
which have fallen out meet once again in the symptom and are reconciled,
as it were, by the compromise of the symptom that has been constructed. It
is for that reason, too, that the symptom is so resistant: it is supported
from both sides.59

This capacity for `resistance' can also be understood as a capacity for survival,
as Nachleben. The historical tenacity of Pathosformeln would thus express itself
metapsychologically, through the internal entanglement of `maintained' conflicts
and ever possible compromises. In Bertoldo di Giovanni's Magdelene (plate 2), the
Antique maenad only `survives' as well as she does because pain and desire are
maintained in their conflict, tense but tangled in a skilfully selected ambiguity, an
ambiguity that makes possible the compromise between the pagan dancer in a
trance and the tearful Christian saint. Freud wrote that the symptom is an
`ingeniously chosen piece of ambiguity with two meanings in complete mutual
contradiction'.60 This reads like a description of all that interested Warburg about
the survival of antique Pathosformeln: for example, the desperate gesture of the
antique Pedagog surviving inversed in the triumphant Renaissance David.
Thus, the symptom plays with the antithesis: it creates `incomprehensible
situations' because it knows how to impart to the most complex workings of
contradictory simultaneity a plastic intensity ± that is, a phenomenal evidence
presented in its entirety to the spectator, like a sculpture. Here, conflict and
compromise, Reaktionsbildungen (`reaction formations') and Ersatzbildungen
(`substitute formations') coexist and respond to one another. Here, representa-
tions that are repressed coexist and exchange with representations that repress.
Freud pointed to a process in dreaming, equally observable in the symptom, which
he called Verkehrung ins Gegenteil (`reversal into the opposite'):

Incidentally, reversal, or turning a thing into its opposite, is one of the

means of representation most favoured by the dream-work . . . it produces a
mass of distortion in the material which is to be represented, and this has a
positively paralysing effect, to begin with, on any attempt to understand the

636 ß Association of Art Historians 2001


16 Heap of serpents at Oraibi. From A. Warburg, Bilder aus dem Gebiet der Pueblo-Indianer in
Nord-Amerika, 1923 (Berlin, 1988), fig. 79.

dream . . . Hysterical attacks sometimes make use of the same kind of

chronological reversal in order to disguise their meaning from observers.61

Now, what Freud says here about the hysterical contortion is exactly what
Warburg says of figurative formulae capable of survival: their interaction with
antithesis ± that is their insensitivity to logical contradiction, to borrow another
Freudian expression ± simultaneously manifests their work of transformation and
their tenacity, their capacity for eternal return. However, there is more: Warburg
and Freud share a particular attention to what I would call the formal pivots of all
of these reversals of sense.62
In his 1908 article Freud offered us another great lesson in looking when, without
renouncing his quest for a structure, he accepted the complexity of the phenomenon
(the heap of moving serpents [plate 16] that constitutes the `incomprehensible
situation' of the hysterical attack). He did not pinpoint this structure by diminishing
or schematizing what he saw, as Richer did, or even by looking for an idea `behind'
what he saw. Nor would he attempt to create a structure out of iconographic detail,
as Richer tried to do, which, in any case, the disorder of `illogical movements' makes
impossible. Instead, he would discern suddenly a formal line of tension, a sort of
symmetry in movement line, sinuous or broken with the alternately slackening or
coiling body. Dancing or explosive, yet ever present in the very crux of the gestural
chaos distributed by each part of its ungraspable geometry.
Without a doubt Charcot's clinic ± where `hemi-sensitivities' and `hemi-
anaesthesia' abounded ± had prepared Freud for this particular observation.

ß Association of Art Historians 2001 637


However, all that was disorder in Charcot's eyes, the `incomprehensible' and
`illogical' character of the situation, was now organized around an axis which
orients masculine fantasy on one side and feminine fantasy on the other. This
hinge abuts and confronts the two contradictory terms at the same time. It does
not dissolve their complexity, it organizes it and diffuses it spatially and
rhythmically. It is the pivot ± itself agitated, I insist ± around which all the turmoil
of contortion is unleashed.
This symmetry in movement offers a formula for the critical pathos exploding
in the attack. How can we not be reminded of Warburg's particular way of
distinguishing the structure of pathos at work in Botticelli's paintings, or
Ghirlandaio's portraits? Warburg observed the structural power of visual pivots
everywhere: the organic border of the body and its `accessories in movement',
with Botticelli, hair or drapery and with Ghirlandaio the architectural border of
the floor and basement at Santa Trinita from which the Medici children's genea-
logical portraits emerge so strangely.63 I would suggest that all the contradictions,
all the conflicts at work in the image, dance around these visual pivots: harmonies
with ruptures, beauties with terrors, resemblances with dissemblances, lives with
deaths. . . . The morphological law of the heap of serpents is no doubt complex,
over-determined, impossible to schematize. But it exists; it allows itself to be
glimpsed. One never captures it entirely, one approaches it, one brushes against it
in the very rhythm of the moving complexities issued by the image.

* * *

One last remark about the visual work of `contradictory simultaneity' is called
for. The source for Freud and Warburg's common intuition is to be found, once
more, in Goethe's aesthetic and morphology. When referring to another heap of
serpents, in the LaocooÈn sculpture, Goethe insisted straightaway on the
importance of antitheses: `[. . .] this work, in addition to all its other merits, is
at one and the same time a model of symmetry and diversity, tranquillity and
motion, contrasts and gradations. The viewer perceives these varied qualities as
whole that is partly physical, partly spiritual . . .'64
Everything doubles over, clashes and melds together in the LaocooÈn.
According to Goethe, the sculptor has `portrayed a physical effect together with
its physical cause'. We can see the three tangled figures `participating in extremely
varied activities'. Moreover, `all three figures are engaged in a two-fold action,'
(eine doppelte Handlung), so that all the degrees of complexity endow every level
of formal organization.65 Finally, Goethe considered the very choice of the theme
represented ± human bodies contorting under the contracting pressure of reptilian
bodies ± an exemplary solution for representing human form. It was a matter of
sculpting multiple forces and demonstrating the anthropological significance of
the contortion itself (whether due to madness or pain, or in a sculptural
masterpiece); that is, the knotted antithesis of movement and paralysis:

The artist's choice of subject is one of the best imaginable. Human beings
are battling against dangerous creatures which do not have to rely on large
numbers of tremendous strength, but rather attack separately on separate

638 ß Association of Art Historians 2001


fronts (als augeteilte KraÈfte). Hence, concentrated resistance is ineffective;

indeed, the snakes, because of their elongated bodies, are capable of
rendering three people almost defenceless without injuring them. As a result
of the figures' immobility, a certain sense of tranquillity and unity pervades
the group despite all movement. There is a gradation in the activity of the
snakes, one only coiling itself around the victims, the other provoked and
causing injury.66

Driven by multiple forces, acting doubly, forming compromises, giving in to

conflicts that suspend it between movement and immobility, the image becomes
this raÈtselhafter Organismus (`enigmatic organism') that Warburg confronted in
each of his studies of Renaissance culture.67 That he was thinking of the
Nietzschean Dionysiac rather than the hysteria clinic is undeniable. But, Nietzsche
himself took care to define the Dionysiac using the example of `enigmatic
creatures' capable of all kinds of metamorphoses, creatures capable of being
moved by a variety of forces, and capable of reacting with a variety of gestures. In
short, capable of knowing how to play all the roles at the same time, as Nietzsche
wrote with regard to . . . `certain hysterics':

In the Dionysian state [. . .] the entire emotional system is alerted and

intensified: so that it discharges all its powers of representation, imitation,
transfiguration, metamorphosis ± every kind of mimicry and play-acting ±
conjointly. The essential thing remains the facility of the metamorphosis,
the incapacity not to react (± in a similar way to certain types of hysterics,
who also assume any role at the slightest instigation).68

So, an enigmatic organism. The enigma ± `the incomprehensible situation' of

which Freud spoke ± stems from the symptom's third structural element:
displacement. Here, Freud entirely reformulated Darwin's principle of
`association'. He sought, over all, to understand why symptomatic expression ±
as spectacular, violent and immediate as it is ± proceeds from a veritable work of
dissimulation, from the VerhuÈllung der wirksamen unbewuûten Phantasie
(`veiling of the unconscious fantasy at work'), as Freud concluded his magisterial
description of the hysterical event.
The symptom veils itself because it metamorphoses, and it metamorphoses
because it moves. It certainly offers itself entirely, without hiding anything ±
sometimes to the point of obscenity ± but it offers itself as a figure; that is, as a
detour.69 And, it is this very displacement that authorizes what is repressed to
return. Where Warburg demonstrated a displacement of pathetic intensity in
Botticelli's Venus, from the centre (her nude body) to the border (her hair in the
wind),70 Freud will note Dora's displacement of sensation (Verschiebung der
Empfindung) ± concomitant with an Affektverkehrung (`reversal of affect') ± from
the bottom, the `genital mucous membrane' (embrace, genitality) to the top, `the
oral mucous membrane' (disgust, orality).71 And this is how the organism
becomes `enigmatic'.
The symptom moves, displaces itself: it can only be grasped in the dimension of
the equivocal. Such is its phenomenological basis, its `incomprehensible situation.'

ß Association of Art Historians 2001 639


The symptom only gives us access ± immediately and intensely ± to the organization
of its very inaccessibility. This inaccessibility is structural: it cannot be resolved
with another `key' provided by the iconological dictionary. All it tells us is that
there are numerous doors to be opened and that, if an organization exists, it must
be thought of in terms of movements and displacements ± the migrations that
Warburg considered the end of all Pathosformeln, whose moving geographies, as
well as surviving histories, the Mnemosyne Atlas attempts to reconstitute.72
The symptom displaces: it migrates and metamorphoses. Is this not what
Rudolf Wittkower, who thought he was taking from Warburg, called the
migration of symbols?73 Not exactly, for the symptom carries within itself a
condition of inaccessibility and intrusion ± repression, return of the repressed ±
that the symbol does not inevitably entail. Freud established this in his short article
from 1916, `A relation between a symbol and a symptom'. The symbol, ordinarily
made to be understood, becomes symptom the moment it displaces itself and loses
its primary identity, when its proliferation suffocates its signification, transgressing
the limits off its proper semiotic field. Therefore, taking off one's hat in the street is
a symbol in the order of social convention (politely acknowledging someone), or
even in oniric folklore (the hat as genital organ). It becomes a symptom when, for
example, the obsessive performs the casuisitry of the salutation ad infinitum,
deploying a whole network of significations likely to infect ± displacement is a kind
of epidemic ± everything that surrounds it, with the head itself becoming, among
other things, a part that can be removed.74
In short, the symptom is a symbol that has become incomprehensible,
endowed as it is with the powers of the wirksamen unbewuûten Phantasie
(`unconscious fantasy at work'): plastically intensified, capable of `contradictory
simultaneity', of displacement, and therefore, of dissimulation. What is the work
of fantasy? It consists in attracting symbols into a register that literally exhausts
them; they become richer, their combination attains a sort of exuberance, but this
exuberance exhausts them too. The `attraction' to which they submit amounts to
their deformation, to their vocation to formlessness. Freud called this a regression
of symbolic thought toward `pure sensory images' in which representation, in a
certain way, returns to its `raw material'.

We have done no more than give a name to an inexplicable phenomenon.

We call it `regression' when in a dream an idea is turned back into the
sensory image from which it was originally derived [. . .] In regression the
fabric of the dream-thoughts is resolved into its raw material.75

The symptom, the symbol become incomprehensible, appears accordingly as

inaccessible to `exhaustive' notation or to `synthesis', as it is to `deciphering'.76
The symptom needs to be interpreted and not deciphered (as the iconologists,
heirs to Panofsky's legacy, would like to decipher `symbolic forms'). The
symptom is first a `silence in the subject supposed to speak' or, put in another
way, a `symbol written on the sand of the flesh'.77 Thus, a kind of paradoxical
writing. Neither regression nor the sensory image prevented Freud from posing ±
on a metapsychological level ± the problem of unconscious inscription and of the
`mnemic' trace.78 Here we touch on the fourth structural element of the model,

640 ß Association of Art Historians 2001


which reformulates the Darwinian principle of imprinting, what Warburg, for his
part, would call the engramme. It demonstrates that the symptom is an afterlife, a
memory formation.
Perhaps this is what is most important with regard to our subject. Doesn't
Mnemosyne constitute the cornerstone of the Warburgian anthropology of
images? But, what about this memory? Closer to home, Lacan looked for a
response to the double requisite of the symptom, and of formations of the
unconscious in general, in the notion of the signifying chain combining masking
effects and truth effects, forces of transformation and forces of repetition,
incessant displacements and indestructible imprints. This led Lacan to bring le
geste (the gesture) and la geste (the gest, or epic poem) together as a carnel
immediacy, a single instant endowed with an epic depth (a long story).79 And, is
this not what Rilke meant by the gesture, `this gesture that comes back from the
depths of time'? Isn't this the Pathosformeln as the movement of an afterlife? Yet,
how are we to understand the memory resurfaced by this gesture, this image
imprinted with time to which it gives life and movement?

Georges Didi-Huberman
EHESS, Paris

This text is a fragment of an extensive study of Warburg's notion of Nachleben: L'image survivante. Histoire
de l'art et temps des fantoÃmes, Paris: Minuit, forthcoming 2001. Translated from the French by Dr Vivian

1 A. Warburg, `Souvenirs d'un voyage en pays 451±4.

Pueblo', unpublished notes for Warburg's 4 Warburg, `DuÈrer und die italienische Antike'
Kreuzlingen conference on the Serpent Ritual (1905), AusgewaÈhlte Schriften une WuÈrdigungen,
(1923), trans. S. Muller, in P.-A. Michaud, Aby dir. D. Wuttke, Baden-Baden, 1980, p. 130.
Warburg et l'image en mouvement, Paris, 1998, `DuÈrer and Italian Antiquity', The Renewal of
p. 265. Pagan Antiquity, op. cit. (note 2), p. 558.
2 The psychological aspect of Warburg's art Warburg speaks of the problem of a `psychology
history has frequently been noted (but its of style' (stilpsychologische Frage) `that is far
epistemological consequences rather neglected). wider, though hitherto barely formulated: the
See C. Ginzburg, `From Aby Warburg to E.H. interchange of artistic culture in the fifteenth
Gombrich: A Problem of Method' (1966) in century, between past and present, and between
Clues, Myths and the Historical Method, eds C. North and South. Not only does this process
Ginzburg, J. and A.C. Tedeschi, Baltimore, 1992, afford a clearer understanding of the early
pp. 17±59; G. Agamben, `Aby Warburg et la Renaissance as a universal category of European
science sans nom' (1984) in Image et MeÂmoire, civilization: it lays bare certain phenomena,
trans. M. Dell'Omodarme, Paris, 1988, pp. 27-32; hitherto unnoticed, that cast a more general light
K.W. Forster, `Introduction,' in Aby Warburg, on the circulation and exchange of expressive
The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity: Contributions forms in art (kuÈnstlerischer Ausdrucksformen).'
to the Cultural History of the European 5 Warburg, Grundlegende BruchstuÈcke zu einter
Renaissance, trans. David Britt, Los Angeles, monistischen Kunstpsychologie (1888±1905),
1999, p. 51. Warburg Institute Archive, London, III, 43, pp.
3 Cf. in particular Warburg, `Die antike GoÈtterwelt 1±2 of typed manuscript. A variant of the title is:
und die FruÈhrenaissance im SuÈden und im Grundlegende BruchstuÈcke zu einer
Norden,' (1908), Gesammelte Schriften. Die pragmatischen Ausdruckskunde (monistischen
Erneuerung der heidnischen Antike. Kunstpsychologie).
Kulturwissenschaftliche BeitraÈge zur Geschichte 6 Warburg, Allgemeine Ideen (1927), Warburg
der EuropaÈischen Renaissance, eds G. Bing and Institute Archive, London, III, 102.1.
F. Rougemont, Leipzig-Berlin, 1932, vol. 2, pp. 7 Cf. E. Wind, `Warburg's Concept of

ß Association of Art Historians 2001 641


Kulturwissenschaft and its Meaning for the symbol. I will return to them further on in
Aesthetics' (1931), The Eloquence of Symbols. the text.
Studies in Humanist Art, Oxford, 1983, p. 21 and 18 Warburg, `Sandro Botticellis ``Geburt der Venus''
30±5. F. Saxl, `Die AusdrucksgebaÈrden der und ``Fruhling''. Eine Untersuchung uÈber die
bildenden Kunst', Bericht uÈber den XII Kongress Vorstellungen von der Antike in der Italienischen
der deutschen Gesellschaft fuÈr Pscyhologie in FruÈhrenaissance' (1893), AusgewaÈhlte Schriften
Hamburg, dir. G. Kafka, Iena, Fischer, 1932, p. un WuÈrdigungen, op. cit. (note 4), pp. 20±21.
13±25. `Sandro Botticelli's Birth of Venus and Spring:
8 G. Bing, `A.M. Warburg', Journal of the An Examination of Concepts of Antiquity in the
Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, vol. 18, 1965, Italian Early Renaissance', The Renewal of Pagan
pp. 309±10. Antiquity, op. cit. (note 2), pp. 89±156. Cf. F.
9 ibid. Cf. A. Dal Lago, `L'arcaico e il suo doppio. Antal and E. Wind, `The Maenad under the
Aby Warburg e l'antropologia', Aut aut, n. 199- Cross,' Journal of the Warburg Institute, 1937,
200, 1984, pp. 77±9. U. Raulff, `Aby Warburg: pp. 70±3.
Ikonische PraÈgung und Seelengeschichte', 19 Warburg, `Sandro Botticellis ``Geburt der Venus'',
Wegbereiter der historischen Psychologie, dir. G. und ``FruÈhling'', pp. 36±53. Translated from the
JuÈtteman, Munich-Weinheim, 1988, pp. 125±30. complete Italian text by J. Hincker, `L'entreÂe du
10 Warburg, Unpublished note 3 August 1888. style ideÂal antiquisant dans la peinture de la
Quoted from E.H. Gombrich, Aby Warburg: An Renaissance,' in A. Warburg, Essais Florentin,
Intellectual Biography, London, 1970 (Chicago, Paris, 1990, p. 24.
1986), pp. 39±40. 20 Warburg, `Der Eintritt des anitkisierenden
11 Warburg, `Souvenirs d'un voyage en pays Idealstils in die Malerie der FruÈhrenaissance,'
Pueblo', op. cit, (note 1), pp. 254±5. (1914) Gesammelte Schriften, vol. I, op. cit. (note
12 Cf. Bing, op. cit. (note 8), p. 303. `In the years 3), pp. 173±6. `The Emergence of the Antique as
following his university training the graph of a Stylistic Ideal in Early Renaissance Painting',
Warburg's life shows some odd deflections. The The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity op. cit. (note 2),
first was an abortive attempt to study medicine. pp. 271±5.
In this way he may have been yielding to a 21 Warburg, `Italienische Kunst und internationale
misplaced hope; what he was looking for was a Astrologie im Palazzo Schifanoja zu Ferrara'
key not so much to the workings of the body as (1912), AusgewaÈhlte Schriften, op. cit. (note 4),
to those of the mind.' Cf. also E.H. Gombrich, pp. 173±98. `Italian Art and International
op. cit. (note 10), pp. 67-68. Astrology in the Palazzo Schifanoia, Ferrara',
13 J. Mesnil, `La BibliotheÁque de Warburg et ses The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity, op. cit. (note
publications', Gazette des Beaux-Arts vol. 14, 2), pp. 563±93, and `Heidnisch-antike Weissagung
1926, p. 238. `En somme, Warburg a recherche et in Wort und Bild zu Luthers Zeiten,' (1920),
reconnu dans les oeuvres d'art moins l'expression AusgewaÈhlte Schriften, op.cit., pp. 199-303.
d'une estheÂtique que le symptoÃme d'un eÂtat `Pagan-Antique Prophecy in Words and Images in
d'aÃme collectif.' the Age of Luther,' The Renewal of Pagan
14 E.H. Gombrich, `In Search of Cultural History', Antiquity, op. cit. (note 2), pp. 597-697.
(1969), (`Symptoms and Syndromes') Ideals and 22 Warburg, `Einleitung zum Mnemosyne-Atlas',
Idols: Essays on Values in History and Art, (1929), in Die Beredsamkeit des Leibes. Zur
London, 1979, pp. 47±9. KoÈrpersprache in der Kunst, eds I. Barta-Fliedl
15 E.H. Gombrich `The Ambivalence of the and C. Geissmar-Brandi, Salzburg, 1992, p. 172.
Classical Tradition. The Cultural Psychology of Translated into French by P. Rusch, `Mnemosyne
Aby Warburg', Tributes: Interpreters of our (Introduction), Trafic 9, 1994, p. 41.
Cultural Tradition, Oxford, 1984, pp. 119±20. 23 Warburg, Tagebuch, 3 April 1929, quoted from
Gombrich, `Aby Warburg e l'evoluzionismo Gombrich, Aby Warburg, op. cit. (note 10), p.
ottocentesco', Belfagor vol. 49, 1994, pp. 638 and 303.
646±7. 24 Warburg, Fragmente, 27 March 1889, cited by
16 Cf. E. Wind, `On a Recent Biography of Gombrich, op. cit. (note 10), p. 48.
Warburg', (1971) The Eloquence of Symbols: 25 Warburg, Briefmarke, cited by Gombrich, op. cit.
Studies in Humanist Art, Oxford, 1983, p. 107. (note 10), p. 252.
17 Cf. E. Cassirer, `La forme du concept dans la 26 Gombrich, op. cit. (note 10), pp. 251±2. Aby
penseÂe mythique', (1922), Oeuvres VI, Trois Warburg, Allgemeine Ideen, op. cit. (note 6), pp.
essais sur le symbolique, trans. J. Carro and J. 14±16. Notes dated 30 and 31 May 1927.
Gaubert, Paris, 1997, pp. 39-111 and `Le concept 27 Warburg, `Einleitung zum Mnemosyne Atlas,'
de forme symbolique dans l'eÂdification des art. cit. (note 22), p. 172, trans. cit. (note 22), pp.
sciences de l'esprit,' (1923), pp. 7-37. These two 40±1.
texts, published in the Studien and the VortraÈge 28 Warburg, `Francesco Sasettis letztwillige
der Bibliothek Warburg, are worth reading, to a VerfuÈgung,' (1907), AusgewaÈhlte Schriften und
certain degree, as `sythesizing' responses to (or WuÈrdigungen, op. cit. (note 4), p. 149. `Francesco
interpretations of) Warburg's understanding of Sassetti's Last Injunctions to His Sons', pp. 223±

642 ß Association of Art Historians 2001


64. `We now feel why the wind goddess, Fortune, The Knotted Subject: Hysteria and Its
came into Francesco Sassetti's mind in the crisis Discontents, Princeton, 1998.
of 1488 as a measure of his own tense energy: for 37 J-M Charcot and P. Richer, Les Difformes et les
Ruccellai and for Sassetti alike, she functions as malades dans l'art, Paris, 1889; P. Richer, L'art et
an iconic formula of reconciliation between the la meÂdecine, Paris, 1902.
'medieval trust in God and the Renaissance trust 38 S. Schade, `Charcot and the Spectacle of the
in self.', p. 242. It is important to note that Hysterical Body. The ``Pathos Formula'' as an
Britt's translation omits the word Aesthetic Staging of Psychiatric Discourse ± a
`symptomatisch', used by Warburg in the original Blind Spot in the Reception of Warburg', (1993),
German to describe how the wind goddess trans. A. Derieg, Art History vol. 18, 1995, pp.
Fortuna functioned for Sassetti. 499±517.
29 Warburg, `Heidnisch-atike Weissagung in Wort 39 ibid., p. 503. Cf. P. Richer, Etudes cliniques sur
und Bild zu Luthers Zeiten', art. cit. (note 21), la grande hysteÂrie ou hysteÂro-eÂpilepsie, Paris,
pp. 244±55, trans. cit., pp. 632±41. 1881 (re-edition 1885), pl. V. and G. Didi-
30 ibid., p. 637. Huberman, Invention de l'hysteÂrie, op. cit. (note
31 Cf. G. Didi-Huberman, `L'histoire de l'art aÁ 36), pp. 113±19.
rebrousse-poil. Temps de l'image et `travail au 40 S. Schade, op. cit. (note 38), pp. 499±501, who
sein des choses' selon Walter Benjamin', Les underlines not only the influence of Charcot, but
Cahiers du MuseÂe national d'Art moderne vol. also the possible influences of Bergson, Bernheim
72, 2000, pp. 4±29. (Benjamin avec Warburg: and, of course, Freud.
`L'histoire de l'art est une histoire de 41 G. Didi-Huberman, `Savoir-mouvement (l'homme
propheÂties'.) qui parlait aux papillons)', preface to P-A
32 Cf. P.-A. Michaud, Aby Warburg et l'image en Michaud, Aby Warburg et l'image en
mouvement, op. cit. (note 1). mouvement, op. cit. (note 1), pp. 7-20.
33 Cf. T. Meynert, Psychiatrie. Klinik der 42 S. Schade, op. cit. (note 38), p. 502.
Erkrankungen des Vorderhirns, Vienna, 1884, pp. 43 F. Nietzsche, La Naissance de la trageÂdie (1872),
251±62. K. Jaspers, Psychopathologie geÂneÂrale eds G. Colli and M. Montinar, trans. P. Lacoue-
(1913), trans. A. Kastler et J. Mendousse, Paris, Labarthe, Oeuvres philosophiques compleÁtes vol.
1928, pp. 227-173. E. Cassirer, `Etude sur la I, Paris, 1977, pp. 44±54. J-M Charcot et P.
pathologie de la conscience symbolique', (1929), Richer, Les DeÂmonaiques dans l'art (1887), eds,
trans. A. KoyreÂ, Journal de Psychologie normale G. Didi-Huberman and P. FeÂdida, Paris, 1984,
et pathologique, vol. 26, 1929, pp. 289±336 and pp. 28±38.
523±66. 44 Recalling the tables Warburg traced, but left
34 T. Ribot, L'HeÂridite psychologique, Paris, 1881 undeveloped, in his manuscript Schemata
(re-edition 1890), especially pp. 103-118 Pathosformeln (1905±1911), London, Warburg
('L'heÂreÂdite dans l'histoire' which refers to the Institute Archive, III, 138.1.
Medici family). Warburg was to acquire many 45 See Darwin, The Expression of the Emotions in
other works by the French school concerning the Man and Animals (1872), Chicago, 1965.
question of `unconscious memory', including: P. 46 P. Richer, Etudes cliniques sur la grande hysteÂrie,
Sollier, Le ProbleÁme de la meÂmoire. Essai de op. cit. (note 39), pp. 89±116.
psycho-meÂcanique, Paris, 1900; T. Ribot, `La 47 Cf. Didi-Huberman, `L'observation de CeÂlina',
meÂmoire affective: nouvelles remarques,' Revue art .cit. (note ??), pp. 267±80.
philosophique, LXIV, 1907, pp. 588-613; J.M. 48 P. Richer, Etudes clinques sur la grande hysteÂrie,
Baldwin, `La meÂmoire affective et l'art', ibid., op. cit. (note 39), p. 69. For an analysis of this
vol. 23, 1909, pp. 449±60. F. Paulhan, `La phase and Charcot's texts, cf. Didi-Huberman,
substitution psychique,' ibid., LXXIII, 1912, pp. Invention de l'hysteÂrie, op. cit. (note 36), pp.
113±39 and 269±89; E. d'Eichthal, Du roÃle de la 161±162, 246±272, etc.
meÂmoire dans nos conceptions metaphysique, 49 Cf. L.B. Ritvo, L'Ascendant de Darwin sur Freud
estheÂtiques, passionnelles, actives, Paris, 1920; P. (1990), trans. P. Lacoste, Paris, 1992, pp. 264±73.
Janet, L'Evolution de la meÂmoire et la notion de Cf. also P. Lacoste, `Sur les theÂories freudiennes
temps, Paris, 1928. de l'eÂvolution,' Les Evolutions. PhylogeneÁse de
35 T. Ribot, La Vie inconsciente et les mouvements, l'individuation, dirs. P. FeÂdida and D. WidloÈcher,
Paris, 1914. Paris, 1994, pp. 21±43.
36 Cf. G. Didi-Huberman, Invention de l'hysteÂrie. 50 See Freud `Vorlesungen zur EinfuÈhring in die
Charcot et l'iconographie photographique de la Psychoanalyse' as `Introductory Lectures on
SalpeÃtrieÁre, Paris, 1982. Amongst the most recent Psychoanalysis' (1916±1917) The Standard
studies, cf. especially J. Beizer, Ventriloquized Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of
Bodies: Narratives of Hysteria in Nineteenth- Sigmund Freud, vols 15 and 16. Translated from
Century France, Ithaca and London, 1994; J. the German under the general editorship of
Matlock, Scenes of Seduction: Prostitution, James Strachey, London: The Hogarth Press and
Hysteria, and Reading Difference in Nineteenth- the Institute of Psychoanalysis, reprint 1995 (first
Century France, New York, 1994; E. Bronfen, pub'd 1959) and `Hemmung, Symptom und

ß Association of Art Historians 2001 643


Angst' as `Inhibitions, Symptoms, and of the [hysterical] symptoms.'

Anxiety,'(1927) SE, vol. 20, p. 77. Cf. also J. 59 Freud, `Introductory Lectures on Psycho-
Lacan, Le SeÂminaire, V. Les formations de Analysis', SE, op. cit. (note 50), part 3 `General
l'inconscient (1957±1958), ed. J-A Miller, Paris, Theory of the Neuroses' (1917),' and `The Paths
1998, pp. 319±34, 373±90, etc. to the Formation of Symptoms', pp. 358±9.
51 `Hysterische Phantasien und Ihre Beziehung zur 60 ibid, p. 360.
BisexualitaÈt' as `Hysterical Phantasies and their 61 Freud, `The Interpretation of Dreams', op. cit.
Relation to Bisexuality,' (1908) SE, vol. 9 (1906± (note 58), p. 328.
1908), p. 166. 62 Didi-Huberman, `Pour une anthropologie des
52 Cf. Didi-Huberman, Invention de l'hysteÂrie, op. singulariteÂs formelles. Remarque sur l'invention
cit. (note 36), pp. 161±2; `Une ravissante warburgienne', GeneÁses. Sciences sociales et
blancheur' (1986), Phasmes. Essais sur histoire vol. 24, 1996, pp. 145±63.
l'apparition, Paris, 1998, pp. 92±98; `Dialogue sur 63 Warburg, `Sandro Botticellis ``Geburt der Venus''
le symptome', pp. 200±202. In this text I will und ``FruÈhling'',' art. cit., pp. 54±63. Trans cit.,
only discuss the article `Hysterical Phantasies and pp. 133±42. Warburg, `Bildniskunst und
their Relation to Bisexuality.' A more thorough florentinisches BuÈrgertum. Domenico Ghirlandajo
analysis would require a discussion of the in Santa Trinita. Die Bildnisse des Lorenzo
following: Freud with Breuer, `UÈber den de'Medici und seiner AngehoÈrigen,' (1902),
psychischen Mechanismus hysterischer AusgewaÈhlte Schriften, op. cit. (note 4), pp. 76.
PhaÈnomene: VorlaÈufige Mitteilung (1893), as `On As `The Art of Portraiture and the Florentine
the Psychical Mechanism of Hysterical Bourgeoisie. Domenico Ghirlandaio in Santa
Phenomena: Preliminary Communication, SE, Trinita: The Portraits of Lorenzo de'Medici and
vol. 2, pp. 3±5 and `Allgemeines uÈber den His Household', The Renewal of Pagan
hysterischen Anfall,' as `Some general remarks on Antiquity, op. cit. (note 2), p. 193: `Lorenzo's
Hysterical Attacks', SE, vol. 9, pp. 229±34. With startled gesture has a different, and much more
Breuer `Zur Theorie des hysterischen Anfalls' overtly surprising, motivation: the hard stone
(1892, first publication in 1940) as `On the pavement of the Piazza della Signoria has opened
Theory of Hysterical Attacks', SE, I, pp. 151±4. up beneath his feet to reveal a stairway, on
53 FeÂdida, Crise et contre-transfert, Paris, 1992, pp. which three men and three children are climbing
227-265 (`Structure theÂorique du symptome. up towards him.' Here we see the relationship
L'interlocuteur'), especially, p. 246. between the notion of the symptom and what
54 J.W.v. Goethe, `On the Laocoon Group' (1798), Warburg referred to as the `the exterior cause of
Collected Works in 12 Volumes, vol. 3: Essays on the image (die aÈussere Veranlassung der Bilder)'.
Art and Literature, ed. J. Geary, trans. E. von 64 Goethe, `On the Laocoon Group', op. cit. (note
Nardoff, Princeton, 1994, p. 15. 54), p. 17.
55 Freud, letter to Fliess, 19 February 19 1899, in La 65 ibid., pp. 20±1.
Naissance de la psychanalyse (1887±1902), eds 66 ibid., pp. 20±1.
M. Bonaparte, A. Freud and E. Kris, trans. A 67 Warburg, `Bildniskunst und florentinisches
Berman, Paris, 1956 (re-edition 1973), p. 247. BuÈrgertum,' op. cit. (note 63), p. 74. `The Art of
56 Freud, `Hysterical phantasies and their Portraiture and the Florentine Bourgeoisie,' The
relationship to bisexuality', SE, op. cit. (note 50), Renewal of Pagan Antiquity op. cit. (note 2), p.
p. 165. `Hysterical symptoms are the expression 190.
on the one hand of a masculine unconcious 68 Nietzsche, `The Twilight of the Idols,' (1889), in
sexual phantasy, and on the other hand of a The Twilight of the Idols, The Antichrist, trans.
feminine one.' A sentence worth mulling over in R.J. Hollingdale, London, 1968, p. 173.
today's context of gender, in which iconography 69 This is why one must always go beyond the
is often polarised, and often trivially. iconographical approach with a figural approach
57 Cf. FeÂdida, Crise et contre-transfert, op. cit. which takes into account the overdeterminations
(note 53), pp. 231±2. of sense and time presupposed by such a
58 Freud, `BruÈchstuck einer Hysterie-Analyse' as 'detour'. Cf. E. Auerbach, Figura (1938), trans.
`Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria,' M.A. Bernier, Paris, 1993 and on another level,
(1905 [1901]), SE, vol. 7, p.47: `[. . .] a symptom M. Schapiro, Les Mots et les images, SeÂmiotique
has more than one meaning and serves to du langage visuel (1969±1976), trans. P. Alferi,
represent several unconscious mental processes Paris, 1990 (Words and Pictures: On the Literal
simultaneously. And I should like to add that in and the Symbolic in the Illustration of a Text,
my estimation a single unconscious mental The Hague, 1973).
process or phantasy will scarcely ever suffice for 70 Warburg, `Sandro Botticellis ``Geburt der Venus''
the production of a symptom.' and `Die und `'`Fruhling'',' op. cit. (note 18), pp. 11±63.
Traumdeutung,' as `Interpretation of Dreams,' 71 Freud, `A Case of Hysteria,' op. cit. (note 58),
SE, vol. 5, p. 569: `As in the case of dreams, pp. 29±30.
there are no limits to the further determinants 72 Warburg, `DuÈrer und die italienische Antike', op.
that may be present ± to the overdetermination cit. (note 4), p. 130, trans cit., p. 558: `[. . .] a

644 ß Association of Art Historians 2001


record of some initial excavations along the route (note 58), pp. 542±3 Cf. FeÂdida, Le site de
of the long migration that brought antique l'eÂtranger. La situation psychanalytique, Paris,
superlatives of gesture.' Warburg, `Einleitung 1995, pp. 221±44. ('La reÂgression').
zum Mnemosyne-Atlas', op. cit. (note 22), p. 76 J. Lacan, Ecrits, Paris, 1996, pp. 358, 372, 518,
173, p. 43±4. 689; and Lacan `Le sinthome', (1975), Ornicar,
73 R. Wittkower, La Migration des symboles (1977), no. 6, 1976, pp. 3-20.
trans. D. Hechter, Paris, 1992. 77 Lacan, Ecrits, op. cit. (note 76), p. 280. Lacan, Le
74 Freud, `Eine Beziehung zwischen einem Symbol SeÂminaire, XI. Les quatre concepts fondamentaux
und einem Symptom,' as `A Connection Between de la psychanalyse (1964), trans. J-A Miller,
a Symbol and a Symptom', (1916) SE, vol. 14, Paris, 1973, p. 16.
pp. 339±40. On the relation between this example 78 Freud, `The Psychology of the Dream Processes,
and Panofsky's paradigm of the `removal of the On Regression,' Interpretation of Dreams, op.
hat', cf. Georges Didi-Huberman, Devant cit. (note 58), pp. 533-549.
l'image. Question poseÂe aux fins d'une histoire 79 Lacan, Le SeÂminaire, V. Les formations de
de l'art, Paris, 1990, pp. 216±17. l'inconscient, op. cit. (note 50), p. 475.
75 Freud, `The Interpretation of Dreams', op. cit.

ß Association of Art Historians 2001 645