Illuminare is closely connected to the Iconology Research Group, a research platform founded by Barbara Baert that explores the role of iconology in relation to Visual Studies and Bildwissenschaften. Their projects focus on the making, meaning and migration of images from the Middle Ages to the present day.

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. Please contact Annelies Vogels and Stephanie Heremans for further information regarding the IRG.

Barbara Baert is founder and editor-in-chief of several IRG series: Studies in Iconology (Peeters Publishers), Art&Religion (Peeters Publishers) and Iconologies (ASP Editions). 


Advisory Board

Claudia Benthien (Hamburg), Ralph Dekoninck (Louvain-la-Neuve), James Elkins (Chicago), Jeffrey Hamburger (Cambridge, MA), Bianca Kuehnel (Jerusalem), Han Lamers (Oslo), John Lowden (London), Anneke Smelik (Nijmegen), Victor Stoichita (Fribourg), Jeroen Stumpel (Utrecht), Paul Vandenbroeck (Leuven), Jan Van der Stock (Leuven), Gerhard Wolf (Florence)


Partner Institutions

Center for Iconographic Studies – Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences – University of Rijeka (

Centre for Women’s Studies in Theology – KU Leuven (

European Network on the Instruments of Devotion (ENID) (

GEMCA – Group for Early Modern Cultural Analysis – Université catholique de Louvain (

Illuminare – Centre for the Study of Medieval Art – KU Leuven (

LECTIO -Leuven Centre for the Study of the Transmission of Texts and Ideas in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance – KU Leuven (

Litterære tradisjoner og tekstkulturer i det tidligmoderne Europa – Universitetet i Oslo (

Ruusbroecgenootschap – University of Antwerp (

The Interior: Art, Space, and Performance (Early Modern to Postmodern) – Research Project Universität Bern (

The Lieven Gevaert Centre for Photography and Visual Studies – KU Leuven & Université catholique de Louvain (

Werkgroep Visuele Cultuur Nederland – Huizinga Instituut (