About Us


Welcome to the Warburg Institute Iconographic Database!

This database is the online image resource of the Warburg Institute, based on the holdings and classification system of the Institute’s Photographic Collection, but also including other images.

The Warburg Institute

The Warburg Institute is one of the world’s leading centres for studying the interaction of ideas, images, and society. It was founded in Hamburg by the pioneering historian Aby Warburg (1866–1929), the scholarly scion of one of Europe’s great banking families, and it was exiled to England in 1933, becoming the only institution saved from Nazi Germany to survive intact in Britain today. The Institute became part of the University of London in 1944 and has been housed since 1958 in a building designed by Charles Holden, opening onto three of Bloomsbury’s historic squares.

The Photographic Collection

The Warburg Institute's Photographic Collection contains around 400,000 analogue photographs of sculptures, paintings, drawings, prints, tapestries, and other forms of imagery. Begun by Aby Warburg in the late 1880s, the collection is ordered by subject according to a unique iconographic classification system first designed by Rudolph Wittkower and Edgar Wind during the 1930s.

The Iconographic Database

The Iconographic Database has been online since 2010. It is an art-historical image resource giving an overview of art history by subject matter or iconography. The database uses an iconographic taxonomy derived from (but not identical to) the classification system of the Photographic Collection, covering subjects from areas such as mythology and literature, history and portraiture, daily life and science, allegory and religion. The database contains ca 80,000 images from the Photographic Collection (20% of the Collection’s holdings, mostly focussing on subjects from classical history and mythology) and ca 20,000 images from other sources. Images range from the Stone Age to the present and from cultures across the globe, but with a strong accent on European art from Classical Antiquity till about 1800.

New Features

This is the second version of the Iconographic Database, online since January 2023, with new and enhanced features compared to the first. The design of the new version matches that of the Institute’s other internet resources in lay-out and colour scheme, providing greater unity and clarity for users. The new version has an improved browsing experience, showing selections of images at each level of the subject taxonomy. The options for keyword searches have been expanded to include Boolean type searches. Search results can be ordered by different criteria, including date and artist/creator. On the image records, images are displayed using a zoomable viewer. The format of the images and metadata is now completely interoperable and compatible with international standards.


The images and metadata of the Iconographic Database are published under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 Unported License. They can be used freely for non-commercial purposes. In selected cases where the owner and/or creator of a photograph have imposed restrictions on its use or reproduction, these are indicated on the image record. The Warburg Institute will take down any image for which a legitimate rights issue can be shown to exist.


The new version of the Warburg Institute Iconographic Database has been designed by the London firm System Simulation. The metadata are stored in XML in a structure created by the Warburg Institute Digital Librarian, Dr Richard Gartner. Master files of the images are kept as tifs in a SharePoint site provided the University of London. The database is administered by the staff of the Warburg Institute Photographic Collection, Dr Paul Taylor and Dr Rembrandt Duits. For comments and queries, please write to photographic.collect@sas.ac.uk.