January 21, 2010

Alchemists ...

We can only see a book, whereas in the other following paintings we can see far more books (not really well handled). These paintings show different levels in the social rank of the Alchemists. Glassware and books were not cheap, most of it were broken during the process (it was not borosilicated glass !) and the books where in Latin, so you needed some education to read and to understand the alchemical meaning of it. Clay tools like crucible and retort, where cheaper than glass one. But, we can also imagine that the first one is working in Dry or Crucible Way, and the other are working more with Alembics, Distillations, & vessels ...the Wet Way. But maybe here, the Alchemist perfectly knows what he is doing, and do not need a lot of books or tools.
It is not because it's lab is not the nicest nor the richest that the Stone cannot be reached there. The exterior appearance of a lab do not mean a lot in Alchemy, it is the Inner Alchemist that is important.

Click on the images and spend some time looking deeply at each painting, copy them and zoom in and out, change the light and colors, saturation etc. We can discover a lot of details and informations. Also hidden patterns, faces, bodies and symbols on several levels can be seen.

The Alchemist seems here a little bored in reading or simply tired. You can see a big alembic on the background. They all used their fireplace to heat the distillation apparatus. Today it is of course easier, but, is the fire of the same quality ?
Dirt in the lab was also caused by coal and wood for the fire, but also by ashes. An alchemist is mostly concerned about the process, and spend a lot of time working for it, we can imagine that he has no energy for house chores, but here, we only have men's lab, what look like a women's lab ?
In all these paintings it's really messy !

Here they seems to be very interested by a Sulfur in the retort. Maybe a Disciple/Master discussion and initiation. Look at the direction of the light in the painting, we can clearly see that they are gazing through the liquid in order to look at the color, or something in the liquid. I do to this quite often. A sword in a book, in the foreground, maybe an indication of the penetration of the Secret Fire in the Materia.

Who is the Alchemist here ? The collective programing would say "the bearded one!", in the previous painting, the bearded one was showing to the other and it seemed obvious it was him the operator. Now, maybe the old one is coming for a remedy or medicine. In these paintings, we can imagine a lot of things ... but for the moment the obvious thing is that papers, books and retorts are often on the floor !
If we look at the left hand of the oldest man, we can see a flask, or a retort. The fact that he wears an Arabian suit, maybe this indicate that he was living there during a moment and were initiated to Alchemy by some Arabic Master. It is not a Lab here, but an oratory. An oratory is a place where you can rest, study, make some astrology and sky observations, also writing the lab journal.

It is said to be Paracelsus. Well, this guy look more to Nicolas Flamel. My God, how do you treat your books !? Again a play between light and darkness, making an atmosphere of mystery. Again a collective imagery, this is of course false, we really need light in order to see something !

This painting is well known. We can see the attention of the Alchemists looking at the top of the gaz stream. The pressure whole was a very good idea, otherwise the flask would have exploded or been projected through the Lab, spreading out acids maybe and dangerous vapours.
Two apprentices are behind him, in the dark. On the papers, some astrological charts. The Alchemist is also an astrologuer, and we can see some planetary sphere in the paintings. This painting is related to the discovery of Phosphor (surely by urine).

A big space, a lot of tools, books, knowledge, and apprentices looking at the fire... this alchemist is rich. A fish suspended to the roof, maybe showing that the Stone was created. A man, looking at the Lab by a window on the right top hand corner, a curious thing.

What is he looking at ? Someting is happening it the Lab ? A retort coughing ? A new color is coming ? Something broken ? He was reading and resting a little (because you have often backache) and it's attention is drawn by an event.

The atmosphere of the Lab of an Alchemist seems to be always the same. Books and glasswear on the floor, retorts and alembics distillingn only natural light and no candles. You can see that they are reading, or looking at the product they have done, or near the coming product, from the crucible or flask.


am-what-is said...

Greetings and thanks for the blog!

I only thought to comment that the books are treated so poorly, perhaps to signify that they cannot give the answers... "burn your books and whiten your laton" they say.
But then the Mutus Liber also suggests that we read, read, read, and re-read...

They are both necessary, IMO. Reading provides a foundation of sorts, but illumination requires a leap, far from the reading mind into the silent mind: a foundation in meditation, if you will.

But you know this already.

Your friend, Sol

S. H. D'Artigné said...

Dear Sol,

Thank you for your comment :)
It is quite amazing to see how books are so poorly treated in these paintings. It is quite possible that they do not give the answer.

It is a paradox your rise here.
In a sense we need to read a lot before the Blackness, and after the Whiteness, it is no more necessary.
But I would say that after the Red, one may have to take up some books again in order to find some clues about the uses of the Stone.

All my best in the Magnum Opus;