Politics of the Image: The Portrait of the Author as Iconic Authorisation

Daniel BerndtLea Hagedorn

The social and epistemic productivity of writers’ portraits in the early modern era (Herzog August Library Wolfenbüttel)

Fictitious portrait of Dante Alighieri. In: Jean-Jacques Boissard. Icones quinquaginta virorum illustrium doctrina & eruditione praestantium ad vivum effictae, cum eorum vitis. Frankfurt a. M.: de Bry, 1597. (© HAB)

The writer’s portrait gives a name and face to the person who assumes responsibility for a literary work. At the same time, however, it conceals the fact that books are often the result of an extensive process of collaboration. All those who participate in the creation of a book – publishers, printers, editors, translators, censors, illustrators etc. – are increasingly marginalised in the face of elaborate portrayals of a single person. This research project investigates writers’ portraits of the 16th to the 18th century with regard to their fundamental socio-cultural economics. The project also examines the changes in the iconographic pattern of argumentation and the concrete forms of usage in connection with the changes in function and interpretation of the early modern portrait.

Essay by Dr. Hole Rößler "Autor-Ikone – Bildpolitische Aspekte des frühneuzeitlichen Autorenporträts “ (in german only)



Image politics in Weimar around 1800 (Klassik Stiftung Weimar)

Alexander Trippel, portrait bust of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, cast of original replica from 1790. © DLA Marbach

The goal of this sub-project is to provide a comprehensive interpretation of the image politics of Classical Weimar. Goethe, Herder, Wieland, Schiller, Duke Carl August, his mother Anna Amalia and the entrepreneur Friedrich Justin Bertuch belonged to a narrow circle of individuals, from whom arose artistic and commercial strategies which served to highlight Weimar’s artistic and cultural significance. The focus lies on portrayals of Goethe, particularly those produced in connection with his travels to Italy, which continue to serve as reference points for portraits of many other writers even today.

An Essay from Prof. Dr. Christian Hecht "Alexander Trippels Goethebüste“ (in german only)

Poets and scholars in photography (German Literature Archive Marbach)

Rilke at the Hotel Biron, 1908/9. © DLA Marbach

This sub-project in Marbach investigates the relationship of literary and philosophical writers and their images. From the beginnings of early photography to the present day, scholars have been intrigued by the staged and coincidental forms of genius expressed in photographic media, the marketing strategies employed by writers, and the influence which publishers and heirs exert on cultural and commemorative politics. This project comparatively analyses pictorial and written sources, iconographic traditions and poetological intensions. The project particularly focuses on the interplay between poetic “imago” and image, as well as the media-related aspect of artistic image-building and the creative effect of surprise.

Daniel Berndt

Essay by Dr. Ellen Strittmatter "Ich ist ein anderer – W. G. Sebalds Porträts aus dem Nachlass“ (in german only)