Institute of Art History


HIstory as a visual concept: Peter of Poitiers' "Compendium historiae"

In view of the complexity of biblical history – „considerans sacrae historiae prolixitatem“ – the 12th century Parisian scholar Peter of Poitiers formulated the goal of his Compendium historiae in genealogia Christi as a concise overview. As a novel visualisation of salvation history in the form of a linear synopsis with brief textual explanations, this work is of groundbreaking importance. The sequence of generations from Adam to Christ forms the chronological leading axis with which the lines of biblical ruling families are correlated, so that synchronous and diachronic relationships of persons and events can be read simultaneously. Furthermore, the Compendium historiae visualises suggestively the basic assumption of a history that is ordered by God and can be grasped by the human mind in its order, that proceeds according to plan and teleologically. The synopsis developed by Peter of Poitiers quickly spread throughout the Latin West. Between the late 12th and early 16th centuries, several hundred copies have survived. Despite its relevance and formative effect, the Compendium historiae has so far neither been edited nor studied with regard to the specificity of multilinear graphics as a metastructure.
The proposed interdisciplinary and international research project brings together the fields of art history, Latin philology, medieval history, edition studies and digital humanities. The aims are (1) a comprehensive overview of the tradition of the Compendium historiae, (2) an analysis of the graphic metastructure as well as the texts, diagrams and images embedded in it (and the recording of variants), (3) a critical scholarly edition (based on selected witnesses), and (4) an exploration of relevant contexts. The project will result in (1) a codicological database, (2) a navigable visualisation of the graphic metastructure (and its elements), (3) a critical edition of the text, and (4) individual and case studies for in-depth research of important witnesses of tradition, socio-cultural contexts and other aspects. The publication will be digital, permanent and freely accessible.
With the development of the digital edition, new methodological ground is being broken in terms of the adequate representation of diagrammatic structures through a formalised and navigable knowledge graph that represents the variants of the work as individual forms of realisation and transmission through innovative visualisation technologies. The project will make accessible one of the most visually innovative and influential works of the Middle Ages and shed new light on the history of the visualisation of knowledge. It will also provide a model with which works of complex graphic structure can be edited and made accessible in the future.

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Siebenarmige Kandelaber in Kirchen: Semantik – Kontexte – Praktiken

Gegenstand des kunsthistorischen Teilprojekts A6 sind monumentale siebenarmige Leuchter aus Bronze oder Messing, die im Mittelalter in Aneignung der jüdischen Menora für die Aufstellung in christlichen Kirchen angefertigt wurden. Verbreitet waren sie zwischen dem 10. und 16. Jh. vor allem im nordwestlichen Mitteleuropa. Solche Kandelaber erreichen mitunter eine Höhe von sechs Metern; es handelt sich also um eindrucksvoll in den Raum hineinwirkende und diesen beherrschende Artefakte von hohem materiellen Anspruch und aufwändiger künstlerischer Faktur.
Die siebenarmigen Leuchter des Hoch- und Spätmittelalters werden im Projekt erstmals als ästhetische Reflexionsfiguren und Kristallisationsobjekte einer ‚anderen‘ Ästhetik verstanden. Dabei gilt es, die dynamischen Verschränkungen zwischen autologischen Qualitäten (Materialität, Formgebung und Ikonographie) und heterologischen Aspekten (räumliche, soziokulturelle und performative Kontexte) herauszuarbeiten. Es wird zu untersuchen sein, welche Wechselwirkungen zwischen den Leuchtern und anderen Objekten und Bildprogrammen im Kirchenraum hergestellt wurden bzw. sich ergaben, und in welche performativen, liturgischen und rituellen Handlungszusammenhänge die Leuchter eingebunden waren.
Durch die Anwendung des praxeologischen Modells des SFB lässt sich aufzeigen, wie den siebenarmigen Kandelabern durch das dynamische Zusammenwirken autologischer und heterologischer Faktoren ihre je spezifische ,andere‘ Ästhetik und Semantik eingeschrieben werden.

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CRC 1391 Different Aesthetics

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Digitization project: Large-format transparencies

The Institute of Art History has a sizeable number of large-format transparencies. They are part of the art-historical collection and were used as illustrative material for lecture up until the early 1980s years. In the 20s of last century the light projectors were very successfully introduced in the art-historical lecture halls. Nowadays the digital picture replaces the large-format transparency. Nevertheless the medial significance of the large-format transparencies should remain visible in current and future teaching. The depictions of architecture and sculpture have their own historical value and are useful for lectures even today. We have decided to partially digitize the large-format transparencies and make them available through the University data base easydb. That enables further use for lectures and research projects. The digitization started in 2012 and is a long term project. By the end of 2014 there were 1300 transparencies in the data base.

Completed Projects

St. Michael in Pforzheim

Main objective was to identify the complex building history and date the individual parts, the reappraisal of the history (restoration and reconstruction after 1945) as well as the new evaluation of the changing aesthetic concepts within a broader historic and artistic context. With the support of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg two practical seminars could be offered in the summer semester 2014 and the winter semester 2014/15.
Duration: April 2014 – March 2015
Project manager: Prof. Dr. Markus Thome
Student Assistants: Nadja-Sonja Lang, Oliver Wolf
Additional cooperation: Eva-Maria Hamm (photographer, Photocopying Office at the Institute of Art History)

wissen & museum: Archiv - Exponat - Evidenz

Project in Tübingen and Marbach with a duration from May 2009 until April 2012. The sub-project „Bilder in der Literatur“ (Images in Literature) was conducted at the Institute of Art History.
Information about the project can be found here
This link leads you to the project homepage.

DFG-Project (Prof. Dr. Peter Klein): Romanesque cloisters in France and Spain: Architecture, Imagery, Function, Significance

The cross-coat in the medieval cloister was the functional and topographic center piece. It played a central role in the monestary life and still represents in its Romanesque share an aesthetically impressive ensemble of covered halls, open arcades and idyllic cloister gardens. The objects of this project are six Romanesque cloisters in Southern France and Northern Spain which are distinguished by their rich imagery and their relatively good state of preservation. These cloisters are located in Moissac, Silos and San Cugat del Vallès as well as the cathedral cross-coats in Aix-en-Provence, Arles and Gerona. The Institute of Art History is engaged in bringing together analytical methods of building research, iconography, source criticism and archive research.
Further details can be obtained from the Institute of Art History, since Prof. Dr. Peter Klein is retired.

Postwar Europe. Art’s potential in the late 1940s and 1950s

The DFG supports a research project „Postwar Europe – Art’s potential in the late 1940s and 1950s“. This project focusses on the art history perspective and specifies the role that art plays in the forming of the European postwar society. Instead of following the patterns of art history along the lines of the Cold War era this investigation recognizes art as an important negotiation platform. It had its active share in the dynamics of designing the new cultural spaces of the time. In order to illustrate this, while considering the two main political systems that established themselves in Europe after the war, the three aesthetic aspects of material, form and medium provide the framework. These aspects guide the selection of debates and practices of the postwar times in which controversies, (yet) unspeakable themes and even disparate topics found their expression through art.
In the research field of „Material and techniques: experiment + tradition” introduces the pottery and thread/weaving concepts of universalism. Artists like Asger Jorn and Anni Albers aimed to reintegrate Europe back into the history of civilization. The research field of „Form: Figuration and abstraction” highlights two concepts that picture reality in different ways. When looking at the statuary work of Betty Rea and Barbara Hepworth the controversially discussed differences of these modes are less important than their hidden similarities of latent structural descriptions of European specialties.
The research field of „Medium: dynamics of meaning in photo books” discusses the role of visual traditions by means of an artistic publication form on the verge of mass media. The photographic work as well as the writings of Martien Coppens lay the basis for this discussion.
This research work offers a contribution to the development of a horizontal art history. Even if Europe is not defined as the binding standard the historic relevance of the region regarding art is recognized. An important element of this work is the cooperation with colleagues who are specialized in East, Middle East and South East European art history and contribute their rich experience.

Duration: April 1, 2017 – March 31, 2020

Project Manager: Prof. Dr. Barbara Lange

Cooperation partners: Prof. Dr. Arnold Bartetzky (Leibniz-Institut GWZO, Leipzig), Dr. Marina Dmitrieva (Leibniz-Institut GWZO, Leipzig) und Prof. Dr. Dr. Tanja Zimmermann (Institut für Kunstgeschichte der Universität Leipzig)

Research Students: Elisabeth Weiß, Paul Ambros

Contact: postwar.europe[at]

Graduate College 1662 “Religious Knowledge in premodern Europe (800-1800)”

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Promotion network "Theorie der Balance. Formen und Figuren des Gleichgewichts in Medien-, Kunst- und Literaturwissenschaft"

For further information about this promotion network and Prof. Dr. Ernst Seidl's contribution please follow this link:

Figura Mortis. Death as visual paradox in the art of the Early Modern Era (sponsored by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation)

This project analyzes death depictions in the Early Modern Era and discovers differentiated artistic concepts of visual representation of the immaterial reality considering the historic context. The visual ascertainment of the abstraction ‘death’ was not obligated to follow an established canon, well into the 17th century. Therefore the death figure became an object of experimental artistic practice due to it protean flexibility.
For further details you can contact project manager Prof. Dr. Anna Pawlak and the project assistant Marius A.T. Wittke M.A.

Portrait Collection

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