Zofia Ameisenowa (1897–1967)
Divisions of PAS
This article introduces the Polish art historian, Zofia Ameisenowa (1897–1967). Her excellent working methodology became the model study of illuminated manuscripts for many contemporary art historians. The priority of Ameisenowa’s research was to create a library understood not as a catalogue, not as an actual institution, but as an environment proper to the circulation of images and ideas. Her publications can be viewed as part of the method for realizing this global project. The mainstream work of the Polish scholar had a ‘positivist’ dimension, and her research system grew from traditional connoisseurship supported by the then most up–to–date knowledge in the field of book studies. Ameisenowa was inspired by scholars such as Giovanni Morelli and Richard Öffner, exponents of the first Vienna School of Art History, and Polish bibliologists like Kazimierz Piekarski and Aleksander Birkenmajer. The nature of Ameisenowa’s research suggests that she not so much practised the history of ideas, but the social history of art. directed at the question of the function of the work of art and the historical ususof dissemination, copying, and image reconstruction in culture. Because of these interests, she had more in common with the matter–of–fact iconography practised by Emile Mâle than with the spectacular iconology of Erwin Panofsky, and any elements of iconological interpretation, if they occur, were for her an intellectual adventure, the prize for the free use of carefully extracted facts. Whether she was examining the tree of life motif, the Hebrew bestiaries, or the deities with animal heads, she did so in order to bridge the gap in knowledge on the transmission of visual motifs from the ancient world to Christian Europe, which she did through finding the forgotten Semitic component. It is worth noting that a separate area of interest for the scholar was Jewish art.