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The Nymph in the Doorway: Revisiting a Central Motif of Aby Warburg’s Study of Culture

  • Author(s): Burroughs, Charles
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY-NC' version 4.0 license
Abstract

Aby Warburg based his revolutionary approach to Renaissance art in large part on his study of the motif of what he called "the nymph." The nymph's ecstatic movement and association with flying and floating drapery elements embodied a Dionysian side of classical art in tension with the harmonious and balanced -- i.e., Apollonian -- character attributed to it since Winckelmann. In this paper I explore figures privileged by Warburg, examining their relation to mainly literary ancient sources and to the role played by each figure in the pictorial economy in whicb they are set. In particular I focus on social implications, having to do with not only with characterization in terms of rank and role but also, in one key case, place within an argument, sketched out in imagery, about the very nature of civil society.

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