Wandering towards Bruno: synderesis and “synthetic intuition”

Christopher D. Johnson


Focusing on the faculty of intuition, my essay considers different ways that Aby Warburg (1866-1929) and Erwin Panofsky (1892-1968) interpret the late Renaissance cosmographer, Giordano Bruno. It argues that Warburg, in the last year of his life and with the help of Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945), appropriates the concept of synderesis from Bruno not only to rethink the Nachleben der Antike but also to inscribe himself in the history of word and image, a history that admits the irrational and the mystical as much as the rational. By contrast, Panofsky's Bruno is ultimately a more dialectical, prudential figure. Over the course of several decades, Bruno for Panofsky becomes symbolic of the possibility of "synthesis," the aim of his iconological method. This, however, diminishes the dynamism of Bruno's imagery, even as it gives intuition a more systematic role.


Aby Warburg; Erwin Panofsky; Giordano Bruno; iconology

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/Aisthesis-17562

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