Conference paper

Pose and Pathosformel in Aby Warburg’s Bilderatlas

look at Aby Warburg’s concept of Pathosformel, the repeatable formula for the expression of emotion, through the depiction of human pose in art. Using crowdsourcing, we annotate 2D human pose in one-third of the panels of Warburg’s atlas of art, and perform some exploratory data analysis. Concentrating only on the relative angles of limbs, we find meaningful clusters of related poses, explore the structure using a hierarchical model, and describe a novel method for visualising salient characteristics of the cluster. We find characteristic pose-clusters which correspond to Pathosformeln, and investigate their historical distribution; at the same time, we find morphologically similar poses can represent wildly different emotions. We hypothesise that this ambiguity comes from the static nature of our encoding, and conclude with some remarks about static and dynamic representations of human pose in art.

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