Jacob Burckhardt

In walking past Jacob Burckhardt’s house on the St. Alban-Vorstadt where he lived during his time as a Professor at the University, originally from 1848 to 1853 and later from 1858 to his retirement in 1893 (he died four years later), I am forced to reflect on how much the discipline of art history owes not to Germany – although Burckhardt was trained as an art historian under Ranke and Kugler in Berlin – but to the cast of mind of this liberal, sceptical Calvinist, brought up as a member of a prominent Basel family, the son of a minister at the Cathedral. Burkhardt first taught architectural history in Bonn, then published Der Cicerone in 1855. There is a picture of him walking past the Cathedral with a large portfolio of drawings under his arm, on his way to the University to teach his students of the virtues of humanism.

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2 thoughts on “Jacob Burckhardt

  1. edward chaney says:

    You could of course support your argument by citing fellow-Swiss Heinrich Wolfflin, Burckhardt’s pupil and successor as art history prof at Basel… But i don’t think Burckhardt was even a sceptical Calvinist; he was an anti-Calvinist, rightly calling Calvin’s ghastly regime in Geneva one of the worst in history…

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