'Wanderstrassen der Kultur': Die Aby Warburg-Fritz Saxl Korrespondenz 1920 bis 1929.

Author:Stimilli, Davide
Position:Book - Book Review
 
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DOROTHEA MCEWAN

"Wanderstrassen der Kultur": Die Aby Warburg-Fritz Saxl Korrespondenz 1920 bis 1929

Munich: Dolling und Galitz, 2004. 220 pp.; 32 b/w ills. [euro]19.80

Aby Warburg (1866-1929) is today universally acknowledged one of the leading intellectual figures of the twentieth century. His influence extends beyond the field of art history, in which he made his major scholarly contributions, to a variety of other disciplines, most notably cultural history, which he helped to define also through the founding of the institute that bears his name. The wide range of Warburg's interests, as reflected in his writings, is now finally available to the English-speaking world thanks to a complete translation of his published works, which the Getty Research Institute issued in 1999. However, a large part of his intellectual output (lectures, fragments, journals, letters) remains as yet unpublished even in his native German. Sir E. H. Gombrich's "intellectual biography" made these materials only partially available, more than thirty years ago, and a team of scholars in England and Germany is currently working on an edition of Warburg's collected works. The edition, however, is not meant to be complete, and the schedule of publication is as yet undefined. An assessment of Warburg's work thus remains based on a pain-fully inadequate knowledge of its true scope.

Meanwhile, various efforts are being made by individual scholars to ensure that Warburg's legacy be entrusted not to his interpreters' words but to his own. A case in point is the ongoing publication of the correspondence between Warburg and Fritz Saxl (1890-1948), his chief assistant and first successor to the direction of the institute. This is a follow-up volume to a first selection of the Warburg-Saxl correspondence, up to the year 1910 ("Ausreiten der Ecken": Die Aby Warburg-Fritz Saxl Korrespondenz 1910 bis 1919), which Dorothea McEwan edited in 1998 for the same publishing house, Dolling und Galitz, at the fore-front of Warburg scholarship. McEwan's edition is a welcome and important contribution to the slowly but steadily increasing disclosure of Warburg's unpublished materials. In all likelihood, McEwan is the first person to enjoy the privilege of reading all of Warburg's letters, as she is well on her way to completing the catalog of his correspondence, comprehending more than thirty-five thousand items. She took on this formidable task in 1993, when she entered her position as...

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