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Bilderfahrzeuge

‘Bilderfahrzeuge’, literally meaning image vehicles, is a term, coined by Aby Warburg. It refers to a concept that was of the utmost importance for Warburg, since his work sought to trace lines of continuity linking Antiquity with the Renaissance – lines that he felt materialised out of ‘Bildwanderung’, the migration of images. Of course, Warburg is not the only, and was not the first scholar to have shown an interest in such an idea. Count Goblet D’Alviella’s 1891 study of The Migration of Symbols is only one early case among many displaying a similar approach. But Warburg succeeded in articulating the phenomenon in an iconic fashion: in the form of his famous Bildatlas whose protagonists – motifs, the migration of which across time and space becomes apparent over the course of the atlas’ various panels – are definitive ‘Bilderfahrzeuge’.