Research projects



Pseudo Apuleius: De herbarum medicaminibus, Mitte 9. Jahrhundert, Kassel, Universitätsbibliothek, Landesbibliothek und Murhardsche Bibliothek 2° Ms. phys. et hist. nat. 10, fol. 26v

Dr. Theresa Holler: Healing Arts. Representations and Practices of Medical Knowledge in Art and Literature, 9th–12th centuries


The post-antique interest in pharmacology and botany was particularly high in the ninth and tenth centuries: herbaria with elaborated images of plants, poems with pharmacological content, as well as previously unknown ingredients that reached the West via the new trade routes and found their way into textual and visual culture, reveal the importance attributed to the art of healing as a whole. The aim of my project is to unravel the intertwined histories of herbal pharmacology, art, and literature in the Middle Ages. I interrogate the ways in which those visualizations reveal systems of knowledge in which concrete medical practices were being actively articulated and negotiated. I posit that art and poetry were both visually and functionally involved in the healing process and therefore can be literally defined as “healing arts.”

My study is structured around three main lines of inquiry. I begin by analyzing herbals produced between the ninth and twelfth centuries. Here the focus is on the difference between information and knowledge the images provide, i.e. what information do the images transmit beyond the question of whether the plants are botanically correct from a modern perspective. Secondly, I trace how this knowledge produced within herbals was transferred to other contexts and media, such as to pharmacological poems, vegetal ornament, and religious imagery. The relationship between medicine and religion (as seen in depictions of Christ as Physician or Asclepios as Christ) makes up my third subtopic. Finally, I turn to the application and practical use of material and literary culture as potent therapeutics (medicine boxes and healing poems).

Methodologically, my approach incorporates Art History, Literature Studies, and the History of Medicine and includes questions of botany, ecology, and health care. Analysis of overlooked images and textual sources will highlight how medical practice intersected with discursive modes beyond the “medical textbook.” In particular, medicine and religion were not considered opponents. Herbal pharmacology and Christian culture invested in a shared discourse that framed health as physical and spiritual well-being. Healing Arts


The interdisciplinary research partnership Bilderfahrzeuge is located in Basel (Department of Art History), Berlin (Humboldt University of Berlin), Florence (Kunsthistorisches Institut), Hamburg (Warburg-Haus), London (Warburg Institute), and Paris (German Center for Art History). The project, subtitled “Aby Warburg’s Legacy and the Future of Iconology,” invokes the German art and cultural historian Aby Warburg’s concept of the Bilderfahrzeug, which he used to try to uncover and grasp formally articulated continuities between antiquity and the Renaissance in the visual arts. With his famous image atlas, Warburg was able to visualize and make comprehensible these phenomena, which are mobile across time and space. In this context, the goal in investigating the migration of images, objects, goods, texts, and ideas consists in a wide historical and geographic context. 

Connected with Warburg’s most famous student, Erwin Panofsky, his iconology proves to be the starting point for a new, genuinely transcultural and transepochal intellectual method for investigating a history of images whose significance has increased due to the visual culture that shapes life today. In this context, our goal is to investigate the migration of images, objects, goods, texts, and ideas in a broad historical and geographic context. Prof. Dr. Andreas Beyer (Basel) is the spokesperson for the research partnership.

eikones - Zentrum für die Theorie und Geschichte des Bildes

eikones – Zentrum für die Theorie und Geschichte des Bildes ist eine interfakultäre und interdisziplinäre wissenschaftliche Einheit an der Universität Basel mit dem Ziel der Koordination und Förderung von Forschung und Lehre bezüglich der Theorie und Geschichte des Bildes.

Zentrum für die Theorie und Geschichte des Bildes
Rheinsprung 11
4051 Basel, Schweiz

Synagonism in the Visual Arts

The proposal submitted to the DFG by both Markus Rath (senior assistant researcher of early modern art, Uni Basel), Yannis Hadjinicolaou (Humboldt University of Berlin; currently an adjunct lecturer at the Department of Art History at the Uni Basel), and Joris van Gastel (Bibliotheca Hertziana, Rome) for an academic network on synagonism in the visual arts was selected for financial support. The network attempts to investigate the basis of the interplay of painting, sculpture, and architecture in early modernity.

In addition to the three spokespeople, the following young scholars are members of the network: Isabella Augart (University of Hamburg), Lena Bader (DFK, Paris), Helen Boeßenecker (University of Bonn), Danica Brenner (University of Trier), Franz Engel (Humboldt University of Berlin), Sandra Hindriks (University of Konstanz), Fabian Jonietz (KHI Florenz), Jasmin Mersmann (IKKM, Weimar), Elizabeth Petcu (LMU, Munich), Jaya Remond (MPI for the History of Science, Berlin), and Maurice Saß (University of Hamburg).

Basel Renaissance Colloquium

The Basel Renaissance Colloquium is organized as an interdisciplinary colloquium—sponsored by the Department of History (Susanna Burghartz, Lucas Burkart) and the Department of Art History (Andreas Beyer)—in the context of the Basel Graduate School of History.

The colloquium was established in 2005 on the initiative of Susanna Burghartz, Achatz von Müller, and Andreas Beyer at the University of Basel as a supraregional discussion forum. With two thematically oriented events per semester, it offers an opportunity for interdisciplinary conversation between all the disciplines that are interested in historical processes of transformation, in questions of tradition formation, and in the construction of historical typologies.

At the center of our interest is the Renaissance as a double-faced projection space: as both an epochal concept and as a category of reflection, as the period of time in which we locate the beginning of modernity while noting at the same time its constantly growing foreignness, but also as a chance for the historical disciplines to understand the central epochal border between the Middle Ages and early modernity as dynamic. For both material and historiographical reasons, a focus on the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries in this context makes sense for Basel.