As we spend more time at home we want to share with you the Warburg community’s recommendations for things to do. From podcasts to recommended reading, in this new blog series, we’ll be sharing what our staff, fellows and students are getting up to.

In this inaugural post, we hear from some of our fellows: Carla Benzan, Martina Mazzotta, Libby Merril and Juliet Simpson.

There is also a range of online content available for you to delve into on the Warburg Virtual Community pages.


Rijksmuseum Podcasts

Rijksmuseum from home

Rijksmuseum from home’: a series of short films of curator talks on key objects in the Rijksmuseum collection. The talks offer close-ups on an individual object within the collections, creating via a journey of art, materiality and broader cultural insights, succinct and illuminating insights into the intimate lives of objects and the questions they invite. With minimal digital overlay, each talk makes ‘at home’ with the curator a refreshingly and convincingly present encounter. Juliet Simpson

History of Philosophy without any gaps

History of Philosophy without any gaps

History of Philosophy without any gaps” by Peter Adamson, (a collaboration between LMU in Munich and King’s College London), often accompanied by beautiful music (e.g.: “Animals in the Renaissance”). Martina Mazzotta

Last Seen

last seen

Last Seen (WBUR & The Boston Globe) is a very engaging series about the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Art heist. The first episode is a bit slow, but then it really picks up! Libby Merril

Case Notes

case notes

Classic FM’s “Case Notes”: a Hollywood retelling about bizarre things in the world of music, superbly Kitsch and informative. I particularly enjoyed the episode “The death of Peter Warlock” and the era of Alistair Crowley and black magic. Martina Mazzotta

A History of Ideas

A history of ideas

Sadly now finished, but well worth a listen, the BBC Radio 4 series “A History of Ideas”. Martina Mazzotta

Recommended reading

Aby Warburg’s Kulturwissenschaft by Kurt W. Forster

Kurt W. Forster, Aby Warburg’s Kulturwissenschaft (2018), particularly penetrating for its analyses of Warburg’s fascination with myth and constructs of the ‘primitive’, and the new light it sheds on their relationship with experimental psychology, theories of emotion and emerging concepts of psychiatry in the late nineteenth-century ‘fin de siècle’. Of value is the close focus on experimental psycho-physiologies of emotion (via Feuerbach) as a key discourse in the period’s artists’ networks, including Böcklin, Segantini, Klinger, especially as these intersect with Nietzscheanism and individual constructs of myth-making. Juliet Simpson

Boreas Rising – Antiquarianism and National Narratives in 17th- and 18th- Century Scandinavia by Bernd Roling

Boreas Rising – Antiquarianism and National Narratives in 17th- and 18th- Century Scandinavia by Bernd Roling

Bernd Roling (Ed.), Boreas Rising – Antiquarianism and National Narratives in 17th- and 18th– Century Scandinavia (Berlin-Boston, 2019) – a fascinating study of a neglected field – the emergence of Nordic antiquarianism, exploring its focus on a hybrid ‘Gothic’ as pivotal to a mythic construct of ‘pre-history’ implicated in the establishment of a national mythology. Particularly insightful is the light it sheds on how early-modern rivalry between Nordic and Baltic states turns into a search for a particularized history and national supremacy in which both Orientalism and Gothicism point the way. Juliet Simpson

L’antirinascimento by Eugenio Battisti

“L’antirinascimento” by Eugenio Battisti (pub.1962), the author who practised many different modes of scholarship and remains an inspirational reference for both, Renaissance and contemporary Art Historians. It covers a whole range of material and topics (e.g. automata, fairy tales, the Wunderkammern, astrology, alchemy, the topoi of the witch and the wild men, as well as gardens, urbanism and scientific illustrations). Martina Mazzotta

Die unendliche Heilung: Aby Warburgs Krankengeschichte

Die unendliche Heilung: Aby Warburgs Krankengeschichte

“Die Unendliche Heilung”, (The infinite recovery, published in Italian as “La guarigione infinita”): Aby Warburg’s experience of “isolation” in the clinic of Ludwig Binswanger between 1921 and 1924, an extraordinary journey between psychiatry, art and philosophy – and the context in which the “Serpent ritual” was conceived. Martina Mazzotta

Curiosity and Wonder from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment edited by R.J.W. Evans and Alexander Marr

“Curiosity and Wonder from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment”, edited by R.J.W. Evans and Alexander Marr, offers a wide range of cross-disciplinary approaches through two basic concepts much in evidence in the early modern period. Martina Mazzotta

into the white book cover

Into the White by Christopher Heuer

I am looking forward to reading Christopher Heuer’s Into the White (Zone Books, 2019), which I ordered for the library before lock down and which should hopefully be available when we return. Heuer has long engaged with the work of Warburg and the Institute, as we find in his review of Paul Taylor’s 2014 edited volume on Gombrich (in Renaissance Quarterly). He will be one of the keynotes at the Image and Ascent conference and his most recent monograph on Arctic imagery in the Renaissance promises to be a rich investigation of an understudied topic. Carla Benzan

The Court Artist: On the Ancestry of the Modern Artist by Martin Warnke

Martin Warnke’s The Court Artist is a wonderful history of the social and political origins of the modern artist. Warnke provides extensive examples that speak to the social position of the artist, how he lived, and the roles he filled. It’s easy to dip into, if you’re interested in a particular topic, but can easily be read cover-to-cover as an impressive synthesis of the artist, c. 1300 – 1600, as known through primary source documents. Unfortunately, it’s not illustrated. Libby Merrill


The Warburg Institute Iconographic Database

The Warburg Iconographic Database is a fun place to visit when I am feeling stuck or in need of a few surprises. Carla Benzan

The Internet Archive for books. Libby Merrill

Online virtual exhibitions/museums

Jan van Eyck: an Optical Revolution

Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait
Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Portrait

Jan van Eyck: an Optical Revolution, MSK Ghent. I had the privilege of seeing this exhibition ‘live’. The online version presented by its curator, Till Holger-Borchert, provides an excellent parallel virtual experience, using the optic of the virtual tour, to guide the viewer through the principal exhibition highlights and innovations.  Here, the digital enables a close-focus on the exhibition’s stunning objects – including restored and unrestored panels from the Ghent Altarpiece, van Eyck’s portraits and drawings – taking us closer to the surface and to slower looking at Van Eycks’ miracle of the natural and human, the exhibition’s central discovery.  Juliet Simpson

Online events

Essex Lectures in Art History

essex lectures in art history

I am looking forward to the Essex Lectures in Art History, which will be given by Diana Bullen Presciuti: “Gendering Conversion and Reconciliation in Renaissance Italy”. There will be two recorded lectures released 22 May and a live seminar with Diana on 28 May. Carla Benzan

Live-streamed baking classes

bread ahead on instagram

I enjoy watching the live-streamed baking classes through Bread Ahead’s Instagram account. Every day at 2pm the owner leads you through a favourite recipe. One of my favourite places in London is Borough Market, so it helps me feel connected. Carla Benzan

Tips for maintaining productivity whilst working from home

Juliet Simpson

  • Thirty minutes reading of an inspirational writer before start of working day:  some suggestions – Montaigne, Goethe, George Duby;
  • If weather is favourable, catch the light and take a sun ‘bath’ mid-morning;
  • Alternate days, 30-mins brush-up on learning a language;
  • Create clear boundaries between screen, work/study and reading for pleasure/relaxation;

Martina Mazzotta

  • Put your legs up, stretching every hour;
  • homemade tea: boil fresh ginger together with lemon peel and some honey at the end -good boost for memory, immune system and skin;
  • get dressed and ready from the early morning, as if you were to go out at any moment.
lemon and ginger in a mug

Carla Benzan

  • Staying connected in meaningful ways helps with momentum and motivation. My office mates and I use WhatsApp to chat and check in from time to time, and it is so nice to have a casual interaction like we might have in the office. Very different to Zoom meetings and emails. 
  • I’ve also found that it is important to make the effort to connect with colleagues and friends who are at a similar career stage. The experience of lock down is very different for students, fellows, and staff and it helps to talk to people who better understand the long-term implications of COVID on my research and career plans.
  • Change your room layout. We move around some of the furniture in rooms occasionally, and have even swapped the use of two of our rooms (making an office a bedroom and the bedroom an office). It’s not that the changes are necessarily an improvement — but using the space differently offers a kind of relief.
  • Doing things that are hands-on has helped me stay more grounded and positive. I’ve started oil painting again, and bake on the weekend. 

Libby Merrill

  • I’ve made a mini-office for myself in a free corner of our flat. It’s nothing fancy, but there aren’t a lot of distractions, which is key. Ear-plugs and a tall mug of coffee are also essential!
cup of coffee

We hope you are feeling inspired by these recommendations. If you’re in need of more, there is a host of online content available for you to explore on the Warburg Virtual Community pages.

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