Valentin Groebner

 Porträt Valentin Groebner

Valentin Groebner

Professor of History
University of Lucerne

In Residence

February 2014 – June 2014

Research Project

Images of Emotion in Faces

At the beginning of the twenty-first century daily life is filled with large-format photographic reproductions of human faces in advertising and on the covers of print media: these have become the preferred means to generate and steer an emotional response. The intention behind these images is to create a connection between the image and the viewer. But what exactly is the viewer expected to see in these images? These replicated faces tell us that they are “more” than just pictures—they are a likeness of a whole, living human person. This constellation is so embedded in daily life and so familiar that we all too easily fail to recognize the paradoxical and astonishing nature of these pictures. Each of these images claims (pars pro toto) not only that it is more than just a photographic likeness of a face (i.e. it is the relevant body as well), but also that it has something to say, that it speaks—which is of course the classic criterion of a live human being. What kind of “liveness” is this? What are its historical precursors and what is its function as pictorial Evidenz?

Research Interests

  • Portraits and their use in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and as modern references
  • Photographic portraits as votive pictures in the early twentieth century
  • Emotionally charged portrait photographs
  • Advertising images as a research problem


Touristischer Geschichtsgebrauch. Über einige Merkmale neuer Vergangenheiten im 20. und 21. Jahrhundert, in: Historische Zeitschrift, vol. 296, issue 2, 2013, p. 408–428.

Wissenschaftssprache. Eine Gebrachsanweisung, Konstanz: university press, 2012.

Berührende Bilder. Gewaltfotos, Magie, Werbung, in: Fotogeschichte. Beiträge zur Geschichte und Ästhetik der Fotografie, 32, vol. 125, 2012, p. 39-48.

Porträt, Passbild, Werbeplakat. Neue Identitäten aus dem Mittelalter, in: Merkur, 66, vol. 757, 2012, p. 498-509.

Keine Werbung und keine Pornos bitte, wir sind Kunsthistoriker. Anmerkungen zu zwei Neuerscheinungen, in: Zirkulationen. Zürcher Jahrbuch für Wissensgeschichte, vol. 7, 2011, p. 201-220.


Valentin Groebner

Center for Advanced Studies BildEvidenz

Arnimallee 10
14195 Berlin