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Panofsky's Idea and Auerbach's Figura, Two Philological Iconodulist Experiments

Adi Efal

Abstract: In this article I propose a comparative examination of two essays: Erwin Panofsky's Idea (1924) and Erich Auerbachs' Figura (1938). Basing my reading on our own present-day embarrassment regarding the status of images, I propose to view both Idea and Figura as responsible for shaping the terms, as well as the possible resolutions, for our present-day iconoclast episode. In as much as Panofsky demonstrated how the history of the European theory of art stemmed out of the ancient platonic condemnation of produced mimesis, while developing the concept of the (artistic) "Idea", Auerbach envisaged an alternative for the definition and mechanics of images, which is not eidetic but figurative. I conclude my essay by proposing the method I refer to as "Figurative Philology" as a synthesis of Ideaand Figura. [1]

 

Iconoclasm and the Science of Art

The following article suggests a comparative reading of two essays, written by two German-Jewish Scholars: Erwin Panofsky’s Idea,[2] published in 1924, and Erich Auerbarch’s Figura,[3] published in 1938. I understand these two essays as experiments in constructing a philological apology of the pictorial, and thereby, it is possible to regard the two essays as posing an Iconodulist agenda to the Humanities. In addition to being two supreme manifestations of an assimilated German Jewry, Idea and Figura also furnished the terms for a continuous iconoclast crisis, one which I believe was prominent during the 20th century, but still forms a relevant subject of debate nowadays: It is the latent crisis revolving around the issue of the judgmental capacity of the pictorial, which was actually initiated during the 18th century, yet which is still apparent in art-historical scholarship, as well as in other cultural fields, as those revolving around the criticism and presentation of contemporary art, or in media and visual studies.[4] It seems that the relationship between the judgmental and the pictorial was initiated when the Imaginary was forwarded as an accepted and central faculty of thought.[5] The judgmental capacity, so I contend, presently dominates our current western visual culture. With and under this capacity, images are responsible for forming valuating representations of the world. I suggest that the contemporary paradigmatic tendency of visual culture is to make images behave as juridical agents, presenting a cohesive-state-of-affairs between a particular and an encompassing totality (Or a universal). This is a situation concordant with the Kantian definition of the activity of the faculty of judgment (Urteilskraft), which is the human capacity to draw a relation between a particular and a universal.[6] The capacity of the image to form a cohesive totality, and the modern demand that it will exercise this capacity,[7] is one of the central causes of the iconoclast episode we are witnessing. Many 20thcentury philosophers, from Bergson and Wittgenstein to Heidegger, Deleuze and Lacan, were occupied with the power as well as the dangers to be found in images as forming this cohesiveness. Many 20th century thinkers were skeptical regarding the capacity of the image to serve as a carrier of thought and truth. The dominancy of Iconocalstic arguments in 20th century aesthetic discourse was pointed out by Michael Kelly.[8] Kelly understood that the source of 20th century aesthetic Iconoclasm is rooted in the latter's uneasy relationship with Truth, and he argued that "(…) it thus seems that we must consider the option of dispensing with the notion of truth when we think philosophically about art."[9] I suggest that it is the one and the same problem of the relationship between Truth and the artistic image that served as the starting-point for Panofsky's Idea, and which, so I suggest, embodies also the underlying challenge of Auerbach's Figura.

        If Kelly emphasized the iconoclastic tendency in 20th century aesthetics, then Martin Jay has argued that 20th century French thought had lead a process of "denigration of vision" altogether. I believe that we can further argue, following Jacques Rancière,[10] that it is the "Aesthetics regime" itself, initiated by 18th century German thought, which lead to the iconoclast episode of the 20th century: While the artwork was identified more and more with the (essentially "subjective," sensual, passive and synthetic, i.e. phenomenolocial) experience of viewing, it was more and more impossible to account for the place "truth" should occupy in this formulation. This problem lead, so goes my suggestion, to many of the inner-conflicts, so much a characteristic of 20th century aesthetics, which lead to explicit iconoclastic gestures. Against the synthetic cohesiveness of the art-work, iconoclastic strategies of analysis, deformation and deconstruction were employed in order to hail the meaning of truth as "difference." Regarding this narrative that I pose, the Importance of Idea and Figura lies in the fact that both essays examined the relationship of Picture and Truth, and while Idea reconstructed the history of this problem, Figurasuggested its possible resolution. If in Panofsky's Idea truth is presented as the carrier of the value of the image, then in Auerbach's Figura reality, or rather historical reality,functions as the validating factor (and not as the valuating factor) of the domain of theplastic (which replaces the domain of images).[11] Thus, the two essays should be considered as two subsequent moves of the same process, in which the modus of plastic or rather figural rationality was explored. In this doing, as I will elaborate at the end of this essay, they both can serve as a basis and a pedestal for a more general project of a renewal of the philological method. Figural Philology, I suggest, should be considered as an iconodulist method for the humanities, producing the past-reality of historical truth, by the help of the agency of figures. 

 

          As I've explained elsewhere,[12] my supposition is that Iconoclasm is a living and relevant issue at our present turn-of-the-century era.[13] It is worth mentioning that the original iconoclastic episode took place in the 8th century A.D, in the Byzantine Christian Empire,[14] where a wide-ranging debate was launched regarding the status and the legitimacy of the use of imagery in religious practice. The exceptionally abundant use of religious icons had lead to its official prohibition. After several ages of blunt Iconoclaism, the second council of Nichea (787 A.D) declared a renewed official confidence in religious icons, though iconoclast controversies continued to appear in Byzantium up until the 10thcentury.[15] Of course, throughout the history of European culture, we can find many other iconoclasts episodes.[16] Returning to Byzantium, In as much as the "Iconoclasts" condemned the production, as well as the usage of imagery in religious theurgy, the "Iconodulists" (sometimes called the "Iconophiles"), among them John of Damascus[17]and Theodor of Studion,[18] produced written defenses of religious icons and images in general. Byzantine Iconoclasm, of course, was an elaboration of the Jewish prohibition of the production of images in the Ten Commandments. It is well worth emphasizing that the Iconodulists insisted on the Christian pious character of their arguments, and even declared Iconocalsm itself as heretic.[19] The Iconodulist authors were cautious not to fall into frames of argumentation determined as heretic, and therefore they never argued for the picture’s self-validity; instead, they examined and shaped the mechanics of icons usage, enabling the icon to serve as a theurgical instrument, embodying a distancebetween man and the divine.[20] It is, then, through the argument of hierarchical distancethat the icon was re-evaluated and legitimized.

              Though Byzantine Iconoclasm is the historical accepted prototype for any iconoclast phenomenon, it was not the first occasion of an Iconocalstic attitude to be revealed in the history of western thought. Another case of ancient approach to art, exhibiting iconoclastic tendency, of course, could be found in Plato’s dialogues. And it is that same well-known platonic disqualification of produced mimesis which makes the starting point for Panofsky’s philological narrative in Idea. Panofsky posed Plato's rejection of produced mimesis at the opening pages of Idea,[21] and then continued to examine the manner in which this archaic platonic rejection actually established the history of western theory of art and was conserved by it. The tradition of the European theory of art thus can be regarded as Iconophilic in nature, and Panofsky’s Idea thus articulated the problem of the European pictorial tradition in iconoclastic terms.

            The specific iconoclast episode to which Panofsky's Idea belongs has a distinctive trait as far as the arrangement of the iconoclast structure is concerned: If Byzantine Iconoclasms' underlying question was- What gives a picture (Icon) a theological value?, then 20th century Iconoclasms' underlying issue is – what are the categories that establish pictorial value? The "Pictorial turn" (To use the expression of W. J. T Mithchell),[22] to which I am referring here, is marked by the strong affinity between the definition of the image and the definition of Value: The  image (i.e. the picture) judges; the image itself acts as a valuating instrument. Its judgmental activity consists on drawing the above mentioned relation between a particular and a universal.[23] Thus, images behave exactly according to the structure of the Kantian power of judgment. As a matter of fact, the concept of Value (Wert) itself, was construed, during the 19th and 20th centuries as holding a pictorial character: In the writings of Rudolf Hermann Lotze, Wilhelm Dilthey, Heinrich Rickert and others,[24] Value (Wert) was presented as an organic discernable unit, whose exclusive operation is to produce judgment-sentences, that draw the relations between organic worlds made of particular organs, and the ideas (or forms, or rather "values") that regulate them.[25] As I've suggested above, I believe that it is this judgmental, valuating capacity of the image that brought about many of the iconoclast aggressions of the 20th century. If we are to take upon ourselves an Iconodulist creed relevant to the present iconoclast episode, then it is necessary that we devise the means for a separation between Pictures and Values. But in order to do just that, a re-definition of the “pictorial” is needed. First, it is my suggestion to align the pictorial with the domain of the plastic, and not with the domain of imagination. The picture as a plastic plastic reality (i.e., as a figure) will not consist of forming cohesive unities, but of sustaining and limiting  extended reality itself(As I will explain bellow).

         Furthermore, the domain of the plastic-pictorial then should function on a territory other than that of Aesthetics. The aesthetic "regime" (To use again the terms of Jacques Rancière) of the 18th and 19th century has been the chief enhancer of the development of the notion of "aesthetic value."[26] And if we want the figure to be spared of the valuating burden, then we should separate conceptually between domain of "the pictorial" and the domain of "the aesthetic." The notion of the "Figure" can be used to achieve such a separation. By separating the plastic from the aesthetic, Auerbach's "Figura" opens the door for establishing a different relation between Pictures and Truth, a relation which does not lean on a representational mimesis, nor on "autonomous" aesthetic values, but rather on the mechanics of rehearsal and restoration, to be found in the philological-figural construction of history. Thirdly, this same project requires a supplementary distinction between the domain of the pictorial and the domain of culture as such, leading to a distinction between (Auerbachian) Philology and the field of research known as "Cultural studies." As I will explain at the end of this essay, figural- philology's general subject is not the cultural organism, but the reality of the past itself. Therefore, the notion of the figure, as it was presented by Auerbach, performs for us a necessary series of distinctions: Firstly, the understanding that the field of the “pictorial” has an imaginary and a plastic aspects, distinguished from each other; The imaginary produces images, the plastic- figures. Secondly, a separation between the plastic-domain and the aesthetic-domain; and thirdly, a distinction between the plastic-domain and the cultural-domain. The science which explores the above distinguished plastic-domain, so I suggest, is Philology. And the restoration of the philological method is motivated by the current on-going iconoclastic episode.

               Panofsky was one of the few to state clearly the iconoclast foundation of the western theory of the pictorial. Using Neo-kantian terminology, he identified implicitly between artistic and judgmental activity. If Panofsky presented the iconoclast roots of the European theory of art, Auerbach's Figura pointed toward the way out of the iconoclast impasse. It is through the agency of the “Figure” that it is possible to turn from the problematics of the Eidetic value of pictures to the performative plastical mechanics of the historical reality.[27] The figure, as Auerbach describes its logics and historical transmutations, has its reality neither in the εδος nor in a schematic-unity of possible experience and the transcendental ideas that regulate it, but in the extension of the past itself, construed out of rehearsal, restoration, narration and realization (Erfüllung).[28] For example, the biblical figure of Joshua, is a (pre-) figuration of Christ; but symmetrically Christ could be a figural couple of Adam only if Joshua was, and even if he was merely a fragment of history; therefore, even if there might be doubt regarding the reality of the person of Joshua, there is no doubt as to the past reality of the figure of Joshua. Thus, the issue standing at the ground of Auerbach’s Figura is not that of valuation of the picture but that of its validating capacity; the validation of the reality of the past through theRealprophetie[29] of figures. Figural Philology thus could be considered as an iconodulist proposition to the current "Bilderstreit." But first we must take a look at Panofsky's deployment of the iconoclastic crisis of the 20th century.

 

 

Panofsky's Idea and the disclosure of the Iconoclastic structure

As I mentioned above, Panofsky deployed Idea around the platonic iconoclast rejection of the produced picture, grounded in the transcendent status of the εἶδος. According to Panofsky, platonic Truth is indeed foreign to art (Kunstfremede);[30] but this foreignness, according to his story, actually served as the subject-matter for the entire history of the theory of art, from the Roman period to the Baroque and the 19th century. Panofsky demonstrated that all along the history of the western theory of art, from Plotinus to Bellori, the artwork was being valued as a mimesis of Truth by the (artistic) Idea. The question regarding the location of this truth; whether in the spirit of the artist, in "objective" reality, or in the art of the past, was secondary to the central consistent underlying argument to be found all along the development of the European theory of art: What gives the work of art its value is the formers' capacity to imitate truth, via the Ideas. It is with the unending task of re-conciliating art with truth that the whole essay is concerned, and it is the assumption of platonic separation that is also the kernel for the Panofskyan iconodulist argument. Panofsky traces the historical transmutations of the relation between the plastic picture (Plastische Bild) and Truth, incorporated in the Idea. European theory of art used the concept of Idea as the bearer of the original platonic cohesiveness-of-strangers between art and truth:[31] It has been a continuous essay to define the pictorial core of the “Idea.” Until the18th century, in which was established what Rancière identified as the aesthetic regime,[32] in which the "Idea" was re-located as immanent to the territory of artistic production. Thus, in his earlier writings, Panofsky demonstrated the construction of the plastic domain, in which plastic values constitute the fundamental concepts (Grundbegriffe) of the science of art.[33] The Idea, bearing the mark of truth, is portrayed as a valuating agent, first of the “exterior world” represented in the picture, then of the world of artistic production itself. Therefore, the rift between Truth and Art serves as the foundation of the history of the theory of artistic production. But this rift is only the introduction to the real crisis which is hidden in Panofsky's text, and it is the rift between Truth and Reality.

 

Value, Truth and Reality in Panofsky's Idea

Both "value" and "reality" appear many times along the lines of Idea. The notion of value appears mainly in the role of the value of the work of art,[34] and in most cases, it is contrasted with "fact" or with "reality." An evident general character of Idea, and with Panofsky’s approach in general, is its disavowal of the factor of reality in the process of the deciphering of the work of art. Even when discussing the more “realist” tendencies of Renaissance theory of art, Panofsky is interested more in the way the schematization of reality finds its seat in the inner-ideas of the artist, and with the “Subject-Object” copula which is achieved through it,[35] than  in the notion of reality itself and it’s relation to the creative action.

              Thus, Idea demonstrates how the “Idea” had gradually become a valuating instrument for the image: When artworks imitate an Idea, their relation to Truth is guarantied. Gradually, during the 16th century, it had become clear that the agent responsible for the imitation of the "Idea" is the creative artist himself, and that the Idea is immanent to the mind of the subject.[36] The "Idea," then, in Panofsky's story, never-ever belongs to "reality," only to the creative agent, would it be the divine creator or the human artist, who maintains the capacity to produce images operating as agents of valuation.

           It is well known that Panofsky's art-history is strongly influenced by the Neo-kantian school. One of the most typical traits of the Neo-kantian school of the second half of the nineteenth-century, was the conceptual schism between Value and Reality, which haunted  also Panofsky's Idea. This dramatic schism is present in the work of two Neo-kantian thinkers; Heinrich Rickert, who was Panofsky’s teacher in Freiburg,[37] and Bruno Bauch,[38] who was Rickert's student in Freiburg, a decade before Panofsky.[39] For Rickert, values are conceived as the subject-matter philosophy,[40] as well as of the cultural sciences (Kulturwissenschaften) at large.[41] Bruno Bauch published in 1926, shortly after Panofsky's Idea, a Neo-kantian presentation of the notion of the Idea. In his view and similarly to Panofsky, Value and Idea are actually synonymous. The Idea, according to Bauch, is the never-ending responsibility ("unendlicher Aufgabe”) of reachingabsolute value, the Truth-value.[42] Generally, we can find in Panofsky, Bauch and Rickert's writings what could be termed a platonic Neo-kantianism.[43] In the work of both three scholars we can detect an aspiration to highlight the continuity between Plato and Kant, and to examine the possibility for a modern, transcendental, understanding of Ideas. From within the framework of Platonic Neo-kantianism Bauch, Rickert, and the early Panofsky drew a rift between Truth and Reality and, moreover, between Value and Reality; and the Idea is located, on this Neo-kantian account, on the side of Value (And Truth), not on the side of reality.[44]

          This Neo-kantian dichotomy[45] entrusted the humanities with the task of “valuating” cultural organic wholes by describing their answerability to underlying substantial schemes of Truth. In several essays belonging to his neo-Kantian period, Panofsky laid bare his claim for the establishment of a Kantian system of judgment for the plastic arts according to an autonomous (i.e. plastic) system of values.[46] Art, as well as the science of art, in his view, has, and rightly so, given-up the claim for any reality outside itself, either of things or of the ideas (εἴδη). The task, as the early Panofsky sees it, is, therefore, to work-through the epiphany of the transcendental schematism of artistic production itself. For Panofsky (At that time a professed neo-Kantian), the history of artistic production is a documented epiphany of the establishment of the subjective, even if universal, plastic schemes and system of values.

              Panofky's Idea concerns implicitly also the issue of modern art and the modern science of art: Panfsky's story is oriented towards an elucidation of the extent to which modern art and the modern science of art, manifest a transcendental solution to the iconoclastic problems of the past: In modern (i.e. 20th century) times, so argues Panofsky, artistic production itself becomes a transcendental reflexive autonomous valuating subject, who acts as the ground of Ideas (i.e. artistic values).[47] Panofskys' project remains torn by the antinomy between, on the other hand, the need to conserve the generic problem of the relation between artistic production and Truth, and, on the other hand, the demand to understand and evaluate artistic production out of its own conditions of possibility, where also artistic Ideas are to be re-located.

            Idea should be considered as an Iconodulist essay in two senses: First, it achieved a restoration of the history of the theory of art issuing from the Platonic prohibition (and thus actually served as an Iconodulist answer to Platonic iconoclasm), and secondly, it was responsible for a primary condensation of an iconic approach to the humanities, in the sense that it started to draw the story of the relationship between images, history and truth. Indeed, Panofsky's overall project should be viewed as an Iconodulist one, leading to the formation of Panofsky's later "Iconological method," which, as I showed elsewhere,[48]makes his fully-developed Iconodulist method for the humanities.

          Apart from being an iconodulist essay, Idea is also a philological experiment in the narration of the movement back and forth out of the basic prohibition, performed by the historical plasticity of the concept of the Idea, presented actually as a figure in Auerbach's sense of the term, as I will explain bellow. It is with the assumption of a non-historicist neo-Kantian “redemption,” i.e. redemption through the transcendental scheme of values, that the Panofskyan philological process is activated, and the Iconodulist gesture is achieved.

       

Auerbach's Figura: Plasticity and History

           The essay Figura, written by Auerbach during his exile to Istanbul, is similar in style and scope to Panofsky's Idea. Indeed, Auerbach refers to Panofsky's "Idea" in a footnote towards the second part of his essay.[49] "Figura" can be considered as an implicitly critical response to "Idea." "Figura" deploys a genealogical and an etymological survey of the "unit" of the figure: similarly to Panofsky, the central texts to be discussed belong to the Latin tradition. The chronological borders of Figura, though, are narrower than those ofIdea: they extend only from the first century B.C. to the late middle ages known also as the "proto Renaissance," taking part in 14th century Italy (In as much as the narrative of Ideareaches the 16th and 17th centuries). Indeed, if Idea preserves a problem originating in the Greek scriptures, then Auerbach's Figura explores a conceptual scheme issuing from Roman civilization. But elsewhere in Auerbach's writings, especially in Mimesis,[50] it becomes apparent that the realist impulse residing in the figure exits already in the Old Testament, and continues after the 14th century to play a central role in western art, especially in the 19th century.[51] Thus, the figural dynamics are inherent to the Judeo-Christian cultural narrative.    

              If in Panofsky’s Idea the problem-structure conserves the "eidetic" status of beauty, then in Auerbach’s Figura the Idea of beauty is laid aside and the είδος is replaced by another term: The Latin Figura.[52] Figura is the etymological source for the word Fictor, engendering also the terms factum, pictorialfactory and fiction.[53]

            Auerbach poses in advance the constant heretic element to be found in the notion of the figure: historical corporeal reality, being the validating factor of the figure. But, as Auerbach's influential ancestor, Giambatista Vico,[54] had argued, in the Latin language, the words truth (Verum) and fact (Factum) are actually synonymous.[55] The word "Factum," I remind the reader, comes from the same etymological source as the work figure. Human truth, in Vico as well as in Auerbach, refers to what man has done; and the figure is the vessel by which the fact has become. Otherwise put, the figure is the produced past, presented as historical reality. Thus, the Latin term "Figura" itself holds the restoration of the alliance between the domain of the plastic and truth, the same alliance whose crisis Panofsky explored in Idea.  

      Auerbach argues that the essence of the shift between the Greek and the Roman paradigms consists in the fact that the Latin word "Figura" was actually used as a translation for the numerous terms used for describing "form" in the Greek language. The term "Figura" was used as synonym to Schema, Plasis, Morphe, Eydolon, Eidos etc.[56]The word "Figura" itself, in its early manifestations, entailed the following meanings and connotations: Sensuality, Carnality, Variation of Form, Ornament, Manner, Corporality and transmutability.

     The fabrication of the word "Figura" is dated to the same historical moment as the appearance of philology, at the period of the Hellenization of the Roman empire. Auerbach begins by exploring the manner in which the term "Figura" appeared in the writings of Varro, Lucretius and Cicero, around the first century B.C., serving in the Latin language primarily as the physical concrete aspect of things.[57] In Cicero, we find the use of the term "Figura" also in the vocabulary of oratory and rhetorics.[58] In Quintilians' writings, a substantial theory of the rhetorical figure was developed.[59] But it was only in the writings of the Church Fathers, according to Auerbach, that the full figural structure came into being. In the writings of Saint Augustine, for example, we see the figural structure as referring exclusively to the affinity between the New and the Old Testaments.[60] It is between the two Testaments that the Christian figural dynamics operate. Not only that the New Testament rehearses the old One, but the old one is, and was already a "real prophecy" of the later one.

 

          Thus, in the full-blown version of the figural structure, historical reality is understood as carrying a latent figurality which can be recognized as such only a-posteriori, and as taking part in a series. As such, history is conceived as the eternal performance (Erfüllung) of history itself[61] (or rather, as we shall see, of the end of time). In as much as for Panofsky the past exists mainly as the τόπoς of the eruption of a generic question, for Auerbach the past exists as a pre-established certitude, supporting the dynamics of history. When pictured as a net of series of figural realizations, historical reality is portrayed as an extended reality, not primarily as a temporal one. Drawing the connecting lines between the figural elements becomes similar to the work of the synthetic method in geometry. Indeed, Vico referred to the geometrical method in the science of history thus:[62]        

"(…) physical things will be true only for whoever has made them, just as geometrical things are true for men because they make them." And therefore: " This Science [i.e. Vicos' New Science, AE] proceeds exactly like geometry, which, as it contemplates the world of dimensions or constructs it from its elements, makes that world for itself, but the reality of our Science is as much greater [than that of geometry] as is that of the orders which pertain to the affairs of men than that of points, lines, planes and shapes."[63] In that sense, Philology, using the figural "mechanics," portrays the past as a res extensa (In the Cartesian sense of the term), i.e. as an abstraction of physical extension itself. But in as much as the science of geometry first and foremost analyses forms, Vico's New Sciencesynthesizes them.[64] The new science of Vico, as well as Auerbach's philology, thus, refer to the extended reality of the past (i.e., to history) by the aid of synthetic operations.[65]

 

             

"Real and Historical": The Figural Mechanics of Validation

According to Auerbach, it is in the writing of the Church-Fathers that we encounter for the first time the full figural structure. It is here that the "Figure" gets its explicit historical sense: "Figura is something real and historical which announces something else that is also real and historical."[66] The figure is a kind of a plastic sign which remains entirely real, specific and concrete. Its two elements (the pre-figure and the "late-"figure) always retain their specific "real" character. Furthermore, figures never consist of a unique element- the figure necessarily participates in a figurative series, embracing at least two historical realities. As I mentioned above, the "Idea" itself, in Panofsky’s essay, behaves as an Auerbachian figure: it is a plastic form, existing in a dynamic of variation, anticipation and retroaction through the ages. Nevertheless, as I will explain bellow, Panofsky's philological method is not entirely figural; The conceptual narrative of "Idea" entails a regression towards, and a restoration of a generic problem to be found in the past of the genealogical story; in as much as the figural narrative refers to the certainty of the reality of the past itself. 

           As I argued above, Panofsky's Idea holds a problematic attitude towards the notion of reality, the same notion which makes the chief concern of Auerbach's Figura. Indeed, in Panofsky’s articulations, plastic production does not regard reality as such.[67] It is no wonder, then, that historical reality, along with its economical and social aspects, is almost absent from all of Panofsky’s works. But for Auerbach, "real" means first and foremost "historical." And now we will turn to the question of the realist impulse residing in both essays, serving as their iconodulist kernel. 

 

 

Reality, Value and Truth: Two versions of Realism

      Both Idea and Figura use realist argumentations in their restorative narration of the legitimacy of the pictorial. For Panofsky, Platonic realism paves the way for a neo-Kantian re-construction of the transcendental subject of artistic experience. Auerbachs' realism,[68]on the other hand, is more of an Aristotelian-Bergsonian nature, in which historical reality holds a pre-established validity. Explaining in depth the Aristotelian nature of this historical reality is beyond the scope of the present essay. Nevertheless I would remark that the dynamics of historical reality in Auerbach are similar to the Aristotelian conception of realization (Ένέργεια), which is prior to force (or "capacity," or "power," Δύναμις), and can be in-born or acquired.[69] The Bergsonian nature of this historical reality resides, in turn, in the duration of occurrence and recalling.[70] Indeed, differing with Michael Hollquists' view,[71] I contend that Auerbach's realism isn't a representative realism, but a presentative realism, i.e. a perfomative and a methodic one;[72] it is a realism whose reference is the reality of the past, narrated and presented as historical truth. It may be further specified as a methodic realism, to use the neo-Scholastic term of Etienne Gilson,[73] in the sense that the reality of the past in the necessary postulate of an always certain and specific philological inquiry. And it is this same postulated reality of the past which is being confirmed and validated through historical reality (which, by the force of this validating capacity, comes to be a historical truth). As in Descartes' method, the methodic bias also points to the fact that the realist aspect regards always a specific problem of reasoning, encountered by the researcher, which demands a certain amount of regulation in order to proceed in the inquiry.[74] Within the confines of the examination of a specific problem, the reality of past transmutations of this specific problem holds a certain validity. Philological methodical realism asserts a certainty (Certum) regarding the past which is not an outcome of the latters' representation, but of the fact of its having-been-made (Facto). And as I mentioned above, This certainty, according to Vico, supports the application of the geometrical method, i.e. of conceiving of the past as a res extensa.[75] Thus far therefore, we've pointed to the Aristotelian, Cartesian and Bergsonian aspects of the Auerbachian definition of the realism of the figural dynamics. 

           

           Yet again, Panofsky and Auerbach differ to a great extent regarding the notion of Realism. The difference between the two regarding what is considered as real concerns also the question of Value. In Panofsky's Idea, along the lines of both neo-Kantianism and Hegelian Geistesgeschichte, the picture, then the artist, and finally the activity of artistic production bestow values upon the world of phenomena, by the force of the Idea, being the medium of Truth. Thus, Panofsky’s project searches to determine the platform for a subjective reflexive judgments that will serve as a transcendental basis for the production of "plastic[76] values." If Panofsky poses Truth as the valuating agent of the picture, then Auerbach is interested less in Truth than in Validy or Certainty;[77] and his occupation with this validity is again similar to Descartes' presentation of the establishment of certainty in the extended "res,"[78] in the sense that this distinguished reality is approachable only through the already existent schemes of thought, deployed as an affirmed net of topological coordinates, which undergoes re-examination and re-habilitation through the methodic process.  

In Auerbach, then, the “subject” which is being explored is the reality of the past, validated by the figurative engine, performing the deployment of historical truth.               The figure re-affirms the reality of the past and validates the components of historical reality, by isolating, repeating and distinguishing them, instead of being occupied with endowing the world of phenomena with values.

 

              The difference between Panofsky and Auerbach regarding the character of their realist arguments is manifested also in their relation to the age of the Renaissance. Both scholars viewed Italian Humanism as establishing the liaison between picture and reality. Panofsky emphasized the importance of the period of 15th century early Renaissance culture, in which authors as Alberti and Ficino theorized the procedures of the depiction of reality.[79] For Auerbach, it is during the 14th century proto-renaissance, that figurative realism achieved its apogee, most notably in Dante's Divine Comedy.[80] But both Auerbach and Panofsky shared the general interest in the Renaissance period and its contribution to shaping the terms for the relationship between art and reality. Panofsky meticulously analyses the manners in which the Renaissance authors understood the picture as an imitation of reality (Nachahmung der Wirklichkeit).[81] He also states, somewhat anachronistically, that it was in the Renaissance that the Subject-Object structure and the "Idea" serving as its copula had been established. But in as much as Panofsky demonstrates how the Renaissance planted the seeds of a Kantian transcendental dyad of subject and object, for Auerbach it is in the age of the proto-renaissance that we find the seeds of modern realism, which consists of a whole other kind of a copula- the copula opened between two historical reality. It is in Dante’s Divine Comedy that Auerbach finds the paradigmatic apogee of the figural dynamics. In theDivine Comedy the antique figure of Virgil (Frist century B.C.) appears in 14th century Florence, the residence place of Dante, and leads the latter into the depth of the moral-theological cosmos, populated with specific historical and mythic figures. Auerbach observed that the "realist" traits of Renaissance art weren’t exclusively based on the depiction of the “reality of the exterior world,” as Panofsky observed, but instead they were based on a certitude in the reality of the past, a certitude which served also as the support for any poietics. It is thus not only the reality of worldly appearances nor the truthfulness of Ideas, as Panofsky found, but also the reality of the past itself which was underlined by the Renaissance authors; The figural dynamics do not lead the artist to the world through the picture; Instead, it leads him to the past through the figural series. If Panofsky placed the "Idea" as a copula between a "subject" and an "object," then Auerbach’s "figure" consists of a copula between two separate historical realities, being both "subjects" and "objects," a-posteriori to be read as chained in a series. The question of reality, in Auerbach, is first and foremost of a historiographical nature. Finally, Panofsky's and Auerbach's interest in the Renaissance stem also from the philological tendency they share: Both were deeply intrigued by the Renaissance rehearsal and restoration of antiquity. The Renaissance itself, then, is actually examined as a figural phenomenon, establishing a figural series between itself, Roman antiquity, Classical antiquity and finally, for Auerbach, also the Old Testament, and 19th century literature.

 

Panofky's Idea, Auerbach's Figura and Figural Philology as an Iconodulist method

My contention is that Panofsky's Idea and Auerbach's Figura were taking part in a joint latent iconoclastic debate. Both expressed a deep concern regarding the pictorial, and both took upon themselves the task of a justification of the use of pictures as cognitive agents. In neither case the picture stands as a sovereign entity: In Panofsky, the iconoclast rift between image and truth lies at the ground of the western theory of art, and in Auerbach's iconodulist alternative the figure guarantees the validity of the past. In the Panofskyan version, we encounter an approach to the plastic domain which is inherently epistemological: The work of art is considered as an agent of knowledge regarding the exterior world; In Auerbach, the structure of remembrance and restoration precedes any knowledge. A synthesis of the methods of Panofsky and Auerbach, and especially of their approaches to the domain of the "plastic," can pave the way to the possibility of forming an iconodulist method which promotes the possibility of the plastic domain to serve as a vessel for thought.

          The early Panofsky, somewhat apologetically, deploys the iconodulist efforts of the history of the theory of art, leading to a transcendental schematization of art production itself; Auerbach, in his turn, suggests that we'll exchange value with validity, truth with certainty and beauty with character. Instead of opposing Truth to Reality (as Panofsky did), here Reality is Truth, but only on the condition that we consider reality as that-which-has-been-made. Instead of letting images carry the judgmental and valuating capacity, Auerbach's figural dynamics suggest to perform a validation of the researcher's own extended-reality by the deployment of the history of that reality.

           The concept of the Auerbachian figure can be regarded as a response to the iconocalst problem which is presented in Panofsky's philological re-construction of the concept of the "Idea." This iconoclast tendency, which originated in the Platonic-Neo-Kantian foundations of Panofsky's thought,[82] continued to be present also in his later "Iconological" writings. Panofsky was occupied with the status of the eidetic in thought and in Art; Auerbach, on his part, was occupied with that which is figural, i.e.  that which is plastic, historical, concrete and real.

           As I mentioned in the beginning of this essay, the figural dynamics draw on a separation between the plastic realm and the aesthetic realm. The figure is not the object of a judgment of taste (in the Kantian sense), but a subject[83] of a certain articulation whose reference is the reality of the past itself. Again as I've argued at the opening of this essay, another element of the same iconodulist habilitation of the humanities is to be found in the distinction between the figural realm and the cultural realm. Under this distinction, though construed out of cultural and linguistic contexts, the figure is not conceived primarily as taking part in a local cultural whole, nor as a manifestation of a Weltanschauung; instead, the figure is a combination of two partial realities, specific events of characters, coming from two distinguished world-views or cultures. The "raison d'être" of the figural dynamics consists of the gesture of distinguishing a quality (a tendency, or a habitude) traversing the relativity of culture organisms. The figural structure is not essentially a culturally-based one; its reference lies instead in a trans-cultural, trans-temporal truth. Thus, the judgmental structure I've mentioned at the opening of this essay, which activates the relation between the particular and the whole to which it adheres, is not the constituting structure of the figural dynamics (Though it is not absent from it either). Indeed, it is the reality of the plastic domain which overcomes the inherent problems of the aesthetic regime. Therefore, the field of figural philology is distinguished from the fields of cultural studies and aesthetics.  

          Figural Philology's truth lies with the non-temporal reality of the past. The figural reading is established by the positive certainty in the permanent realization of the past via history.

 

Idea and Figura: Towards a Figural Philology

              The suggested affinity between Pafnosky and Auerbach is supported also by the biographical data. Panofsky and Auerbach exchanged letters at least from the middle forties, when Auerbach was still residing in Istanbul, until at least the middle fifties. Both Panofsky and Auerbach were German-Jewish scholars at exile in the USA (Panofsky emigrated to America in 1933, and Auerbach in 1947). Auerbach resided at the Princeton Advanced Studies center in 1949-1950, with the help and support of Panofsky (before moving to Yale as professor of Romance philology, at 1950). Numerous letters exchanged between them are available in print,[84] testifying to the amicable connection between the two scholars, sharing the uncertainties of Jewish intellectual immigrants in the American academy.[85] Indeed, Panofsky and Auerbach could be affiliated with a non-official group of scholars who were occupied, along the 20th century, with the renewal of "roman philology," in Germany as well as in the U.S.A, between them Karl Vossler, Leo Spitzer and Victor Klemperer.[86]

 

            If I choose to underline the fact that both Idea and Figura should be considered as pertaining to a philological rationality, it is because I believe that their work reinforce the statement that philology is not to be regarded any longer in the accepted, derogative sense, as the "discipline" interested solely with the historical variations of linguistic expressions. Rather, it should be treated as a legitimate method – A form of argumentation and a modus of thought whose target is to intuit the past, out of a certainty in its non-timely nature, and to re-validate its extended reality.

        From that perspective, Philology could be regarded as a historicist method.[87] It is historicist in the sense that the validity of its statements stems primarily from historical reality. Auerbach discusses in several places the threat of historical relativism to be found in the historicist[88] attitude. With reference to this threat, he describes his position as "radical relativism.[89]" As Leopold Waizbort has argued, Auerbach's radical relativism endeavors to overcome historicism from within the confines of historicism itself.[90] It is the outcome of the philological depiction of the change of subject simultaneous to a change of object. And figural philology, resulting form the synthesis of Auerbach's conception of his method with his description of the figural dynamics, will be even more remote from the threat of relativism. Auerbach writes: "Figurative interpretation, in spite of its stress on historical completeness, derives its inspiration from the eternal wisdom of God, in whose mind there does not exist a difference of time. In his sight, what happens here and now, has happened from the very beginning and may recur at any moment in the flow of time."[91] The figural dynamics are motivated by a conviction in some dogma, and in that sense they are essentially non-relativist. It is impossible to produce a figural narrative without the help of a pre-given knowledge of the narrative's eternal reality, i.e. of the narrative's end.

            In this manner, figural philology should hold to a more philosophical standpoint than a "gross" historicist method. Figural Philology is again even remoter from historicism, as what it regards as "truth" is the outcome of the reality of the past (which is validated by history). And this philological past is modeled as a Cartesian res-extensa, and not as a free temporal flux. 

           Based on the models of Idea and Figura we can, therefore, suggest two basic types of Intuition, both active in figural philology. I propose understanding the philological truth as built upon the synthesis of the two forms of Intuition, to which I refer as ArcheologicalIntuition and Historical intuition.

              The Archeological Intuition, which I find in Panofsky’s Idea, conserves a generative problem: It aspires to contract a certain chain of events and situations into a sole figure (Such as the "Idea" in Panofsky's essay), which it believes (or rather determines) to be found at the "Ground," "Origin" or better still the "Cause," of the plural material.[92] We can call Panofsky's intuition archeological, in as much as it is interested in a conservation of an ἀρχή, which in the case of Panofsky (But not necessarily in any philological construction) of Panofsky, of a generative antinomy (i.e. in the case of Idea, the antinomy of Mimesis and Truth); In this manner, the artwork, for Panofsky (In Idea, but also in his later writings), holds a character of a "Vera Icona," embodying and thus preserving the basic adhesion between Idea and Truth. Therefore the past, in Panofsky'sIdea holds the status of a transcendentental origin. In that sense, archeological intuition is first and foremost regressive. 

           Auerbach’s intuitional gesture, on the other hand, is genuinely historical as there is no other ἀρχή of the figural dynamics except for the reality of the past itself. Thus, the artwork, for Auerbach, is not so much an icon but a relic, which makes a piece of a narrative series of realization. In as much as Panofsky is occupied with the conservation of an idea, Auerbach is interested in the restoration of the trail of change.

            Archeologcial Intuition produces a repression of memory, in the sense that it contracts and consumes an entire historical narrative into a sole generative form; Historical Intuition, on the other hand, restores a series of characters, and activates a deployment[93] of memory, while it is interested in making evident variations, nuances and distinctions residing in the philological series.

            The synthesis of the two kinds of intuition creates the full philological intuition. This full philological gesture simultaneously compresses archeologically and deploys historically the past. Philology regresses backwards from a given, encountered problem, in search for a reality, which is a tendancy[94] or a habitude, and which carries a mark of distinction. It is possible to distinguish this tendency only retroactively, with the help of the agency of figures. I propose, then, figural philology, cohering between archeological and historical intuitions, as an iconodulist method for the humanities.

              Auerbach is often considered and discussed as a philologist,[95] but Panofsky is regarded mainly as a prominent art historian. Not withstanding, amongst the numerous possible approaches to Panofsky’s corpus of works, it is also possible to view his method, and especially his later Iconological method, as essentially philological, in essence, character and method. Panofsky referred to himself as a “Frustrated philologist” and was described as a “philologist after the fact.”[96] Panofsky’s later "Iconological writings," though continuing to exhibit neo-Kantian sensitivities, also endorsed the philological categories of investigation: They are less interested in the archeology of the transmutations of a basic scheme through the ages, and more with the way a specific picture or another kind of plastic document contracts an entire figural narrative.[97]

          Philology itself does not exclude the examination of plastic documents, just the opposite: Philological method, as Auerbach phrased its core structure in Figura as well as in his other writings, entails exactly the plasticity of any historical reality. This plasticity entails also the possibility for nuance and variation.

           To conclude, philological rationality, elaborated by Auerbach (on the basis of the figural mechanics and Vico's definitions of philology) and shared by the later Panofsky, is suited for the establishment of the iconodulist project of freeing the domain of the plastic from judgmental, valuating, cultural and finally aesthetic responsibilities. Philology can be considered as the art (τέχνη) of history, and figural philology can be considered as a productive (ποιητικῆς) art, as it produces figures, i.e. series of historical realities. Figural philology would be a method directed to a realization (Ένέργεια) of a force (Δύναμις) to be found in a specific problem of reasoning tackled by the researcher. By restoring backwards a figural series, in a constant retrograde movement, it should regress towards the ἀρχή- the reality of the past.

 

 

 

[1] This essay is dedicated to the memory of Prof. Gustave Kühnel who taught at the Art History department at Tel-Aviv University, whose exquisite post-graduate seminar was for me the first occasion

to tackle with the issue of Iconocalsm.

 

[2] Erwin Panofsky, Idea- Ein Beitrag zur Begriffsgeschichte der älteren KunsttheorieBerlin: Verlag Bruno Hessling GMBH, 1975 (First published in Studien der Bibliothek Warburg 5, 1924); Erwin Panofsky  Idea- A Concept in Art Theory, New York and London: Icon Editions, 1968. When referring bellow to both essays, I note the German pagination, followed by the English one.  

 

[3] Erich Auerbach, “Figura,” Archivum Romanicum 22 [1938], 436-489; Erich Auerbach, "Figura," in

Scenes from the Drama of European Literature- Six EssaysMinneapolisUniversity of Minnesota

Press, 1984, 11-76.

 

[4] I refer the reader to my article, which discusses in more depth the iconoclastic aspects of contemporary art and compares Panofsky's Iconology with Jean-Luc Marion's contemporary iconoclast philosophy: Adi Efal, "Iconology and Iconicity- Towards an Iconic History of Figures, Between Erwin Panofsky and Jean-Luc Marion," Naharaim- Zeitscrift für deutsch-jüdische Literature und Kulturgeschichte, Ed. Ashraf Noor, Berlin and New-York: De Gruyter, vol. 1, 81-105.

 

[5] Currently, two outstanding Hebrew scholars are preparing works to be published on the subject of the imagination and the imaginary: Menahem Goldenberg, Who prepare a metaphysical critic of the faculty of imagination, and Yotam Hotam who writes on imagination, political-theology and science-fiction. 

 

[6]  Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft [1790], Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 2003, 19 (B XXVI). 

 

[7] On the definition of the image see W. J. T. Mitchell, "What is an Image?" in Iconology- Image, Text, IdeologyChicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 7-46.

 

[8] Michael Kelly, Iconoclasm in AestheticsCambridgeCambridge University Press, 2003.

 

[9] Ibid., 96.

 

[10] See Jacques Rancière, Le partage du sensible- esthétique et politique, Paris: La fabrique-éditions, 2000; Jacques Rancière, Le destin des images, Paris: La fabrique-éditions, 2003; Jacques Rancière,Malaise dans l'esthétique, Paris: Galilée, 2004.

  

[11] This is to paraphrase James Elkins, The Domain of ImagesIthacaNY : Cornell University Press, 1999.

 

[12] Efal, Iconology and Iconicity.

 

[13] A notable example for the present turn-of-the-century iconoclastic discourse is the philosophical work of Jean-Luc Marion. See Jean-Luc Marion, L’idole et la distance- Cinq études, Paris : Editions Grasset et Fasquelle, 1977; Jean-Luc Marion, La croisée du visible, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1991; Jean-Luc Marion, De surcroît- Études sur les phénomènes saturés, Paris: PUF, 2001, 65-98, 123-153.

 

[14] For a detailed study of Byzantine Iconoclasm see Marie-José Mondzain, Image, Icon Economy- The Byzantine Origins of the Contemporary Imaginary, trans. R. Franses, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005.

 

[15] Ibid., 5.

 

[16] See David Freedberg, "Idolatry and Iconocalsm," The Power of Images- Studies in the History and Theory of ResponseChicagoUniversity of Chicago Press, 1989, 378-428.

 

[17] See for Example Moshe Barasch, Icon- Studies in the History of an IdeaNew York and LondonNew York University Press, 1992, 183-253.

 

[18] Barasch, Icon, 254-289.

 

[19] See Mondzain, Image, Icon Economy, 233-245.

 

[20] See Marion, L’idole et la distance. 

 

[21] Panofsky, Idea, 1-4. 

 

[22] W. J. T. Mitchell, “The Pictorial Turn,” in his Picture Theory, Chicago and London: The University ofChicago Press, 1994, 11-34 (First Published in ArtForum 30/7 (March 1992)).

 

[23] In Jean-Luc Marion’s thought, the Picture (Both “Icon” and “Idol”) is identified not simply with value but moreover with surplus value, in the figure of the Saturated Phenomenon., see Marion, De surcroît, 131-136.   

 

[24] See Fritz Bamberger, Untersuchungen zur Entstehung des Wertproblems in der Philosophie des 19. Jahrhunderts, I- Lotze, Halle a.s.: M. Neimeyer, 1924, 55-56.

 

[25] Immanuel Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft (1781, 1787), Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 2003, 420-441.

 

[26] On Aesthetic, Plastic or artistic value, see Paul Crowther, "The scope and value of the artistic image," Defining Art, Creation the Canon: Artistic Value in an Era of Doubt, Oxford and New York, The Clarendon Press and the Oxford University Press, 89-123; Hugo Anthony Meyhell, "On the Grounds of Aesthetic Value," The Nature of Aesthetic Value, London, Macmilan, 1986, 3-24; Roman Ingarden, Erlebnis, Kunstwek und Wert: Vortrage zur Aesthetik 1937-1967, Tübingen, Max Neimeyer, 1969;  Elisabeth Schellekens, "The Aesthetic Value of Ideas," Philosophy and Conceptual Art, Peter Goldie and Elisabeth Schellenkens eds., Oxford and New York: The Clarendon Press and the Oxford University Press, 2007, 71-91. All writers discuss the relation between "aesthetic value" and the action of criticizing the work of art.

 

[27] „geschichtliche Wirklichkeit“- Auerbach, Figura, 451/29: „(...)figura ist etwas Wirkliches, Geschichtliches welches etwas anderes, ebenfalls Wirkliches und Geschichtliches darstellt und ankündigt.“; "(…) figura is something real and historical which anounces something else that is also real and historical."

 

[28] See Hayden White, "Auerbach Literary History- Figural Causation and Modernism Historicism," Figural Realism- Studies in the Mimesis EffectBaltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999, 88-94.

 

[29] Auerbach, Figura, 450/ 28- The English translation is "Phenomenal prophecy." 

 

[30] Panofsky, Idea, 2/4 (The English translation converts "Kunstfremde" to "Indifferent to or unfamiliar with art.")

 

[31] Actually, the Greek language differentiates between Eidos (εδος) and Idea (ιδέα); this difference holds the same foreignness Panofsky is discussing: Eidos is referring to the absolute and eternal forms, and Idea is referring to apparent manifestations of them, for example in beautiful harmonic relations. Next in this etymological chain lies “Eydolon” (εδωλον) which is already the illusionist, imaginary, deceiving, even heretic appearance. On this subject, see Ernst Cassirer, “Eidos und Eidolon. Das Problem das Schönen und der Kunst in Platons Dialogen [1924],“ in Ernst Cassirer, Gesammelte Werke Hamburger Ausgabe(Hrsg. Brigit Recki), Band 16, Aufsätze und Kleine Schriften (1922-1926), Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 2003 (First appeared in Vorträge der Bibliothek Warburg, 1924), 135-164.; and for a discussion of the difference between Eidos and Idea see Jean-Luc Marion, Sur L’ontologie grise de Descartes, Paris: Vrin, 1975, 116-131. 

 

[32] Rancière, Partage du sensible, 31.

 

[33] Erwin Panofsky, "Über das Verhältnis der Kunstgeschichte zur Kunsttheorie [1925]," Aufsätze zu Grundfragen der Kunstwissenschaft, Hrsg. Hariolf Oberer und Egon Verhezen, Berlin: B. Hessling, 1964, 51.

 

[34] For one example among many others, see Panofsky, Idea, 3 (my emphasis)- „So bestimmt sich alsoder Wert einer künstlerischen Schöpfung, nicht anders als der Wert einer wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung...“

 

[35] Posing reality as the result of the encounter between the subject and the object could be an articulation of the Hegelian definition of Reality in his Logik: G. W. F. Hegel, Wissenschaft der Logik, Hrsg.Georg Lasson, Leipzig, Felix Meiner Verlag, zweiter Teil, III, 156-7: "Die Wirklichkeit ist die Einheit des Wesens und der Existenz (…) Diese Einheit des Inneren und Äußern ist die absolute Wirklichkeit."

 

[36] Panofsky, Idea, 39-56.

 

[37] See Joan Hart, “Erwin Panofsky and Karl Manheim: A Dialogue on Interpretation,” Critical Inquiry 19 (Spring 1993), 538.

 

[38] Bruno Bauch, Wahrheit, Wert und Wirklichkeit, Leipzig: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1923.

 

[39] Bauch completed his Promotion under Rickerts' supervision in Freiburg at 1901. Panofsky was studying in Freiburg, taking also courses with Rickert, between the years 1912-1914: he received his Promotion there at 1914 under Wilhelm Vöge.

 

[40] Heinrich Rickert, "Die Philosophie als Wertlehre," Allgemeine Grundlegung der Philosophie, Tübingen: Verlag von J. C. B Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1921, 142-155. 

 

[41] Heinrich Rickert, Kulturwissenschaft und Naturwissenschaft, Freiburg, Leipzig und Tübingen : Verlag von J. C. B Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1899, 24 ff. ; Heinrich Rickert, Die Problem der Geischichtsphilosophie- Eine Einführung (1904), Heidelberg: Carl Winters Universitätsbuchhandlung, 1924), 54-67; Heinrich Rickert, Allgemeine Grundlegung der Philosophie, Tübingen: Verlag von J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1921, 112-129, 142-166.

 

[42] Bruno Bauch, Die Idee, Leipzig: Verlag Emmanuel Reinicke, 1926, 152-174.

[43] The best example for this Platonist Neo-kantianism is to be found in Bauch's works. See Bauch, Die Idee.

 

[44] Though the present essay is not dealing with the political implications of Panofsky’s and Auerbach’s texts, It must be noted that Bauch was a right-winged nationalist and a supporter of the National-Socialist regime. Bauch was forced to quit his position as the editor of the journal Kantstudien as a result of his blunt Anti-Semitic expressions. See Hans Sluga, Heidegger’s Crisis- Philosophy and Politics in Nazi Germany, Cambridge Mass. & London: Harvard University Press, 1993, 7, 15, 83, 93-94. 

 

[45] This Neo-kantian dichotomy is not absent also from Cassirer’s philosophy of Symbolical forms, See Ernst Cassirer, „Der Begriff der symbolischen Form im Aufbau der Geisteswissenschaften (1923),“ in Cassirer, Gesammelte Werke, 75-104.

 

[46] Panofsky, Idea, 71-72; See also Erwin Panofsky, „Der Begriff des Kunstwollens (1920),“ „Über das Verhältnis der Kunstgeschichte zur Kunsttheorie (1925)“, in Erwin Panofsky, Aufsätze zu Grundfragen der Kunstwissenschaft, Hrsg. Hariolf Oberer und Egon Vreheyen, Berlin: B. Hessling, 1964, 40-1, 51 ff.

 

[47] Panofsky, Idea, 72-73/125-126; Erwin Panofsky, "Über das Verhältnis der Kunstgeschichte zur Kunsttheorie- Ein Beitrag zu der Erörterung über die Möglichkeit "Kunstwissenschaftlicher Grundbegriffe,"" Aufsätze zu Grundfragen der Kunstwissenschaft, 51.

 

[48] See my article (In Hebrew), Adi Efal, "Erwin Panofsky's Iconological Method: Synthesis, Value and Intuition," Tabur- Yearbook for European History, Society Culture and Thought, The Richard Koebner Minerva Center for German History, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Vol. 2 (2009), 177-208.

 

[49] Auerbach, Figura, 477/236, note 44. Panofsky uses the notion of “Figura” towards the end of Idea,when discussing Michelangelo and Dürer (Panofsky, Idea, 65, 70/117, 123), but without mentioning its conceptual etymology.

 

[50] Erich Auerbach, Mimesis, Dargestellte Wirklichkeit in der Abendländischen Literature (1946), zweite Auflage, Bern: Francke Verlag, 1959, 11-27; Erich Auerbach, Mimesis, The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, trans. W. R. Trask, Princeton and OxfordPrinceton University Press, 2003, 9-23. 

 

[51] Auerbach, Mimesis, chapters 18 & 19, 422-487/ 454-523.  See also Hayden White, Auerbach's Literary History, 96-99. 

 

[52] The Latin word Figura hasn’t got one definitive source in the Greek Language. The Greek εδος andμορφή were translated into the Latin “Forma.” Other possible Greek partial equivalents are Schema (σχμα), Tupos (τύπος) and Plasis (πλάσις). See Auerbach, Figura, 438-440/ 13-16.

 

[53] Auerbach, Figura, 437/ 12-13.

 

[54] Auerbach was responsible for the translation of Vico's New Science into German, and referred to Vico many times in his writings. See Giambattista Vico, Die Neue Wissenschaft- über die gemeinschaftliche Natur der Völker, übersetzt und eingeteiltet von Erich Auerbach, München: Allgemeine Verlagsanstallt, 1924; Erich Auerbach, "Vico and Aesthetic Historism," Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 8/2 (December 1949), 110-118; Erich Auerbach, "Introduction: Purpose and Method," Literary Language and its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and in the Middle Ages, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965, 5-24. On Auerbach and Vico see Claus Uhlig, "Auerbach's "Hidden" (?) Theory of History," Literary History and the Challenge of Philology- The Legacy of Erich Auerbach, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996, 36-39; Diane Meur, "Auerbach and Vico: Die unausgesprochene Auseinandersetzung," Karlheinz Barck & Martin Treml (Hrgs.), Erich Auerbach- Geschitchte und Aktualität eines europäischen Philologen, Berlin: Kulturverlag Kadmos, 2007, 57-70.  

 

[55] Giambatistta Vico, "On Verum and Factum," Selected Writings, Edited and translated by Leon Pompa,Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 50-56. See also Karl Löwith, Vicos Grundsatz: verum et factum convertuntur – Seine theologische Prämisse und deren säkulare Konsequenzen, Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, 1968.

 

[56] Auerbach, Figura, 438-439/14-16.

 

[57]  Ibid., 437-444/11-21.

 

[58] Ibid., 442-444/ 18-21.

 

[59] Ibid., 447-450/ 25-28.

 

[60] Ibid., 450-464/ 28-49.

 

[61] White, Erich Auerbach's Literary History, 88-9.

 

[62]  Vico, Selected Writingns, 75-76; For another notable realist conception of the past, leaning on a geometrical grid, reminding of Descartes' res extensa see Michael Dummet, Truth and the PastNew York: Columbia University Press, 2004, 46-52.

 

[63] Vico, Selected Writings, 206/ Vico, Die Neue Wissenschaft, 139. 

 

[64] Ibid., 61, 75- "(…) We might demonstrate by synthesis, i.e. we should make truths rather than discover them." I discuss the importance of Synthesis in the Neo-kantian definitions of the historical and cultural sciences in my article, Efal, Panofsky's Iconological method.

 

[65] Auerbach himself notes the important part syntehsis takes in his philological method, see Erich Auerbach, "Introduction: Purpose and Method," Literary Language and its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and in the Middle Ages, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965, 17-18. See also Leopold Waizbort, "Erich Auerbach im Kontext der Historismusdebatte," Erich Auerbach- Geschichte und Aktualität, 17-18.

 

[66] Auerbach, Figura, 29 (English)/ 451- "figura ist etwas Wirkliches, Geschichtliches, welches etwas anderes, ebenfalls Wirkliches und Geschichtliches darstellt und ankündigt."

 

[67] A good introduction to Panofsky's Iconological method of interpretation, leaving no place for reality as such, could be found in Erwin Panofsky, “Iconography and Iconology: An Introduction to the Study of Renaissance Art, (1939),” Meaning in the Visual Arts, New York: Garden City, Doubleday Anchor Books, 1955, 26-54.

 

[68] On Auerbach's Realism see Ernst Müller, "Auerbach's Realismus," Erich Auerbach: Geschichte und Aktualität, 268-261; Luiz Costa Lima, "Zwischen Realismus und Figuration: Auerbachs dezentrierter Realismus," Erich Auerbach: Geschichte und Aktualität, 255-267.

 

[69] Aristotles, The Metaphysics, Trans. Hugh Lawson-Tancred, London: Penguin Books, 1998, Book Theta, chapters 5 & 8, (1047b-1048a; 1049b-1051a), 263-265, 272-277.

 

[70] See Henri Bergson, La pensée et le mouvant (1938), Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2003.

 

[71] Michal Holquist, "The Last European: Erich Auerbach as Precursor in the History of Cultural Criticism,"Modern Language Quarterly, 54/3 (September 1993), 374-379. Barry Maine had suggested a more plausible interpretation of Auerbach's realism, which relates Auerbach's concept of historical reality to Nelson Goodman's nominalist constructionism. See Barry Maine, "Erich Auerbach's Mimesis and Nelson Goodman's Ways of Worldmaking: A Nominal(ist) Revision," Poetics Today, 20:1 (Spring 1999), 41-52. Hayden White's presentation of Auerbach (See White, Auerbach's Literary History) is closest to the one I propose here, but as much as he emphasizes the aesthetic parameters of Auerbach's realism, I emphasize the very reality of history and the certainty of the past.

 

[72] The philosopher Michael Dummett contended that radical realism is necessarily a non-representative realism, in the sense that radical realism should refer to the reality of the thing in issue as independent from any apparatus of its representation. See Michael Dummett, "Realism, (1963)" Truth and other EnigmasCambridgeMass.: Harvard university Press, 1978, 358-74. See also, Michael Dummett, "The Reality of the Past," in Ibid., 358-374.

 

[73] Étienne Gilson, Le réalisme méthodique (1935), Paris: Pierre Téqui éditeur, 2007.

 

[74] Rene Descartes, "Rules for the Direction of the Mind," Descartes Philosophical Writings, trans. Elizabeth Anscombe and Peter Thomas Geach, London: Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd., 1954, 153-180.

 

[75] Vico, Selected Writings, 61- " Geometry, which is taught by the synthetic method, i.e. by forms, is completely certain both in result and in procedure. For by proceeding from the smallest to the infinite by means of its own postulates, it shows how to synthesize the elements from which the truths which it demonstrates are formed."

 

[76] Panofksy uses explicitly this notion of “Symbolical value” in his famous presentation of Iconology. See Erwin Panofsky, Iconography and Iconology, 40. 

 

[77] The identification of Truth, Factuality and Certainty is part of the legacy of Giambattista Vico, which Auerbach endorses. See Auerbach, Vico and Aesthetic Historism, The Journal and Aesthetics and Art, 110-118.; Erich Auerbach, Intoduction: Purpose and Method, 16. See also Löwith, Vicos Grundsatz.

 

[78]  On Descartes' res extensa, see The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, Vol. I, Trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff and Dugald Murdoch, CambridgeCambridge University Press, 1985, Vol. I: 51-65, 223-247, Vol. II: 44-62. See also Marleen Rozemond, Descartes's DualismCambridgeMass.: Harvard University Press, 1998.

 

[79] Panofsky, Idea, 23-33/47-59.

 

[80] Auerbach, Figura, 477-489/62-76. See also Carlo Ginzburg, "Auerbach und Dante: Eine Verlaufbahn," Erich Auerbach- Geschichte und Aktualität, 33-45.

 

[81] Panofsky, Idea, 23/ 47.

 

[82] Efal, Erwin Panofsky's Iconological Method.

 

[83] I.e. an active carrier. 

 

[84] On the relationship between Auerbach and Panofsky almost no scholarly material exists. Some letters exchanged between the two could be found in the second and third volumes of Erwin Panofsky,Krrespondenz- Eine kommentierte Auswahl in Fünf Bände, Hrsg. Dieter Wuttke, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2003-2005.

 

[85] See Anthony Heilbut, Exiled in Paradise: German Refugee Artists and Intellectuals in America, from the 1930s to the PresentBerkeleyCalif. : University of California Press, 1997. See also Erwin Panofsky, "Three decades of Art History in the United States: Impressions of a Transplanted European," Meaning in the Visual Arts, 321-346.

 

[86] Auerbach himself noted the affinity between his work and Spitzer's: Auerbach, Introduction, Purpose and Method, 19; On Spitzer's and Auerbach's renovation of philology, see Geoffrey Green, Literary Criticism and the Structure of History- Erich Auerbach and Leo Spitzer, Lincoln and LondonUniversity ofNebraska Press, 1982. Auerbach himself refers to Spitzer's work in one of the methodological introduction to his philological method. See Erich Auerbach, Introduction: Purpose and Method, 19. See also Thomas R. Hart, "Literature as Language: Auerbach, Spitzer, Jakobson," Literary History and the Challenge of Philology, 227-239; Kader Konuk, "Deutsch-jüdische Philologen im türkischen Exil: Leo Spitzer und Erich Auerbach," Erich Auerbach- Geschichte und Aktualität, 215-229.

 

[87] On Auerbach and Historicism, see Waizbort, Erich Auerbach im Kontext der Historismus debatt. Being a historicist, Auerbach's historiosophic position stands apart from what David Myers has identified as an anti-historicist tendency of many German-Jewish thinkers, following the guidelines of  Cohen's Neo-kantianism . See David N. Myers, Resisting History: Historicism and Its Discontents in German-Jewish ThoughtPrinceton and Oxford: The Princeton University Press, 2003. Viewed from that perspective, Auerbach's philology is historicist to a greater extent than Ernst Cassirer's  Neo-kantian philosophy of symbolical forms.

 

[88] On the origins and principles of Historicism, see Otto Gerhard Oexle Hrsg., Krise des Historismus- Krise der Wirklichkeit- Wissenschaft, Kunst und Literature 1880-1932, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2007.

[89] See Auerbach, Introduction: Purpose and Method, 12; Waizbort, Erich Auerbach im Kontext der Historismus debatt, 294-296.

 

[90] Waizbort, Erich Auerbach im Kontext der Historismus debatt, 291- "Historismus durch Historismus zu überwinden."

 

[91] Erich Auerbach, "Typological Symbolism in Medieval Literature," Yale French Studies 9 – Symbol and SymbolismNew York: Kraus Reprint Corporation, 1965, 9.

 

[92] Of course, my understanding of the archeological intuition paraphrases Foucault's notion of the archeology of knowledge, though it does not coincide fully with it. A full comparison will merit a special essay. See Michel Foucault, L'archéologie du savoirParis: Éditions Gallimard, 1969.

 

[93] See Gilles Deleuze, Le Pli- Leibniz et le Baroque, Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit, 1988.

 

[94] Bergson, La pensée et le mouvant, 211- "Il y a une réalité extérieure et pourtant donnée immédiatement à notre esprit (…) Cette réalité est mobilité (…) Toute réalité est donc tendance."

 

[95] See Michael Holquist, "Erich Auerbach and the Fate of Philology Today," Poetics Today 21:1 (Spring 1999), 77-91; Karlheinz Back & Martin Treml, "Erich Auerbachs Philologie als Kulturwissenschaft," Erich Auerbach- Geschichte und Aktualität eines europäischen Philologen, 9-29.

 

[96] See Joan Hart, “Erwin Panofsky and Karl Manheim: A Dialogue on Interpretation,” Critical Inquiry 19 (Spring 1993), 553-554, notes 50 and 51. For a notable example for an essay by Panofsky which exhibits an evident philological method, see "Et in Arcadia Edo: Poussin and the Elegiac Tradition," Meaning in the Visual Arts, 295-320.

 

[97] Efal, Erwin Panofsky's Iconological Method.

 


Adi Efal submitted her doctorate thesis in 2005, dealing with the paintings of Edouard Vuillard and models of cohesiveness in European intellectual culture of the 19th century. Since then she has been researching various themes, in the center of which the history of French thought from Descartes to Bergson, and the Historiography of the History of Art (Riegl and Panofsky). She teaches at Bezalel, the Beit-Berl College and the University of Tel-Aviv.

Germania, September 2009