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 peer-reviewed series Iconologies, published by ASP, wants to investigate how iconology as a field and method, which originated within art history, relates to these recent developments.


1: Barbara Baert (ed.), New Perspectives in Iconology: Visual Studies and Anthropology (Brussels: ASP, 2012)

2: Dominique Bauer, Beyond the Frame (Brussels: ASP, 2016)

3: Vlad Ionescu, Pneumatology: An Inquiry into the Representation of Wind, Air and Breath (Brussels: ASP, 2017)