Welcome to the Iconology Research Group, a research platform that explores the role of iconology in relation to Visual Studies and Bildwissenschaften. Our projects focus on the making, meaning and migration of images from the Middle Ages to the present day. We organize workshops and symposia on a yearly basis, at different locations in Europe and abroad.
Iconology is a two-faced beast. To students, it is often presented as a functional subordinate to art history. In the practice of research, it transgresses the borders of its discipline and can devour whole universes of images. Indeed, iconology, as envisioned by Aby Warburg, is supposed to study images produced inside and outside the realm of art. And in order to trace the meanings, histories and transformations of images, iconology is in essence interdisciplinary . Warburg therefore explored anthropology, Erwin Panofsky looked into film, and Ernst Gombrich put psychology and social sciences to his service. After these famous ventures from within, the pictorial turn however was announced by other disciplines, and implied a critique of art histories’ conservative approach to images. Visual studies was formed and opened the realm of images to literary theory, gender studies, performance and film studies and many others. Yet, in the endeavour to study visuality in all its facets the field remains somewhat indistinct. More recently, Bildwissenschaften has turned to focus on the image as object again, and in doing so has moved beyond the humanities highlighting image production in all fields. Facing a possible visual illiteracy, methods to study images are also developed outside academia. In other words, the need to unravel the meaning of past, present and future images has become omnipresent. The Iconology Research Group (IRG) wants to investigate how iconology as a field and method, which originated within art history, relates to these recent developments. It wants to review and rethink original methodologies in the light of new approaches. How has iconology evolved in the past decennia, could it incorporate visual studies or a science of images? How have new disciplines profited from iconology and how can they in turn inspire and/or reinvent iconology? Beyond methodological reflection, the IRG singles out three central research themes: the production and technologies of pictures (i), the significance and agency of images (ii), and the transfer and migration of motives (iii). These will be addressed within a wide historical and geographical scope, as we regard the tracing of pictorial meaning throughout time and space an essential characteristic of iconology.