V22: Alchemy in visual form

Alchemy: image and text in the late Renaissance 

Modern scientific argument is primarily delivered in the written word – but that was not always the case.  In issue 22 of Varoom Adrian Holme explores the moment in history when visual argument, and the rich use of illustration in the field of ‘Alchemy’, disappeared from the field of science. How can science, and our understanding of it benefit from using the image?

The Varoom article considers the nature of image and text in early 17th Century alchemical publications, exemplified by the works of Dr Robert Fludd and Michael Maier, and the shift in the nature of illustration in science that followed the rejection of alchemy by Francis Bacon and others. This shift is further contextualised in terms of wider cultural and philosophical trends that downgraded the status of visual imagery in serious discourse. For more see Varoom 22.

Michael Maier, (1613), Atalanta fugiens, 12-13. Oppenheim: de Bry. In: Klossowski de Rola, S, (1988), 71 (c) Thames and Hudson Ltd. London, 1988

Top image: Robert Fludd (1617). Utriusque cosmi. Vol. 1, p29. Second of the eighteen images depicting the creation of the Macrocosm. This image shows the appearance of Light in the Darkness Source: http://www.billheidrick.com/Orpd/RFludd/ (c) UC Berkeley and Bill Heidrick 2010

Adrian Holme is a lecturer on the BA Hons. Illustration course at Camberwell College of Arts, UAL, and an associate editor of the Journal of Illustration. He is also a practising artist and writer.

 

Bibiography for Alchemy: image and text in the late Renaissance 

Arnheim, Rudolf (1971). Visual Thinking. Berkeley: Univ. California Press

Arasse, Daniel (2001). Anselm Kiefer. London: Thames and Hudson

Bacon, Francis (2004). The advancement of learning (First published 1605) http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext04/adlr10h.htm (Accessed 1 June 2013)

Ball P (2007). The Devil’s doctor: Paracelsus and the world of Renaissance magic and science. London: Random House

Beuys J, Klein Y, Rothko M, Anthony d’Offay (firm) (1987). Beuys, Klein, Rothko: Transformation and Prophecy. London: Anthony d’Offay Gallery,

Bohm, D (1983). Wholeness and the Implicate Order, London: Ark Paperbacks,

Breidbach, Olaf. (2006). Visions of Nature: the art and science of Ernst Haeckel. Munich: Prestel

Burke, Edmund (2004). A philosophical enquiry into the sublime and beautiful. London: Penguin Classics

Cambell, John (2010). Rutherford – a brief biography. http://www.rutherford.org.nz/biography.htm (Accessed 1 June 2013)

Dampier WC (1971). A history of science: and its relations with philosophy & religion. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press

Foucault, Michel. (2001). The order of things: an archaeology of the human sciences. London: Routledge

Freeman, Rosemary (1948). English emblem books. London: Chatto & Windus

Furnari M (1995). Formal design in Renaissance architecture: from Brunelleschi to Palladio. New York: Rizzoli International

Gibson WS (2006). Pieter Bruegel and the art of laughter. Berkeley: Univ California Press

Gombrich, Ernst H. (1984). Tributes: interpreters of our cultural tradition. Oxford: Phaidon

Gombrich, Ernst H (1985). Symbolic images: studies in the art of the Renaissance II London: Phaidon.

Hale J. (2005). The civilisation of Europe in the Renaissance. London: Harper

Heidrick, Bill. Robert Fludd’s Utriusque cosmi maioris salicet et minoris metaphysica. http://www.billheidrick.com/Orpd/RFludd/ (Accessed 1 June 2013)

Henry, John (2001). Scientific revolution and the origins of modern science. Gordonsville, VA: Palgrave Macmillan. http://site.elibrary.com/lib/ucreative/Doc?id=10076895&ppg=65 (Accessed August 3, 2010)

Huffman, William H (Ed.) (1992). Robert Fludd: essential readings. London: Harper Collins

Jay, Martin (1994). Downcast eyes: the denigration of vision in twentieth-century French thought. Berkeley: Univ. California Press

Jean, Georges (1998). Signs, symbols and ciphers: decoding the message. London: Thames and Hudson / New Horizons

Jung, CG. (1983). Alchemical studies. Transl. RFC Hull. Bollingen series XX, The collected works of C.G. Jung, Volume 13. (Eds. Read H, Fordham M, Adler G, McGuire W). New York: Princeton Univ. Press

Kemp, Martin (2006). Seen | unseen: art, science and intuition from Leonardo to the Hubble Telescope. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press

Klossowski de Rola, Stanislas (1988). The golden game: alchemical engravings of the seventeenth century. London: Thames and Hudson

Linden, Stanton J. (1974). Francis Bacon and alchemy: the reformation of Vulcan. J of the History of Ideas. 35(4), 547-560

Linden, Stanton J. (2003) The alchemy reader: from Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press

McLean A (2011). The alchemy web site. http://www.alchemywebsite.com/index.html (Accessed 1 June 2013)

McLuhan M (1962). The Guttenberg galaxy: the making of typographic man. Toronto: Toronto Univ Press

Michaud, Philippe-Alain (2004). Aby Warburg and the image in motion. Transl. Sophie Hawkes. New York: Zone Books

Mitchell, WJT. (1987). Iconology: image, text, ideology. Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press

Panofsky, Erwin. (1955) Meaning in the visual arts. Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press.

Panofsky, Erwin. (1972). Studies in iconology: humanistic themes in the art of the Renaissance. New York: Icon

Pauli, Wolfgang, (1992). The influence of archetypal ideas on the scientific theories of Kepler. (Excerpt). In: Huffman, William H. Robert Fludd: essential readings. London: Aquarian Press. Chapter 5, 121-145

Pyenson L and Sheets-Pyenson S. (1999). Servants of nature. A history of scientific institutions, enterprises and sensibilities. London: HarperCollins Publishers,

Quarles, Francis, (1639) Emblemes. [With “Hieroglyphikes of the life of man.” With engravings by William Marshall.] London: John Dawson for Francis Eglesfeild

Read, John (1933). Alchemy and alchemists. Folklore, 44(3). September, 251-278 http://www.jstor.org/stable/1256428 (Accessed 2 August 2010)

Roob, Alexander. (1997) The hermetic museum. Alchemy & mysticism. Koln: Taschen

Stafford, Barbara Maria (2001). Visual analogy: consciousness as the art of connecting. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press

Steadman, Philip (2008). The Evolution of Designs: Biological Analogy in Architecture and the Applied Arts. Abingdon, Oxford: Routledge

Thompson CJS. (1990). The lure and romance of alchemy. (First published 1932). New York: Bell Publishing

Weitemeier H (1995). Yves Klein, 1928-1962: International Klein Blue. Koln: Taschen

Yates, Frances (1972). The Rosicrucian enlightenment. London: Routledge

Primary Sources

Fludd, Robert (1607-1621). Utriusque cosmi maioris salicet et minoris metaphysica. Oppenheim: Johann Theodor de Bry. Warburg Institute, London, (July 2010) and online at http://www.billheidrick.com/Orpd/RFludd/ (Accessed 1 June 2013)

Kepler, Ioannis (1619). Harmonices Mundi, First edition, Lincii: Austriae. Facsimile, Posner Memorial Collection http://posner.library.cmu.edu/Posner/books/book.cgi?call=520_K38PI (Accessed 1 June 2013)

Quarles, Francis, (1639). Emblemes. [With “Hieroglyphikes of the life of man.” With engravings by William Marshall.] London: John Dawson for Francis Eglesfeild, British Library

Radio

In our time (2005) Alchemy BBC Radio 4, broadcast Thursday 24 February, 2005 http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/inourtime/inourtime_20050224.shtml (Accessed August 6, 2010)

Figures

Figure 2. Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c1558). The Alchemist. (pen and brown ink, 308 x 453 mm), Staatliche Museen, Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin.  http://www.learn.columbia.edu/dbcourses/publicportfolio.cgi?view=591#

Figure 2. Hans Weiditz, (c1520) An alchemist http://www.levity.com/alchemy/weiditz.html

Figure 3. Michael Maier, (1613), Atalanta fugiens, 12-13. Oppenheim: de Bry. In: Klossowski de Rola, S, (1988), 71 (c) Thames and Hudson Ltd. London, 1988

Figure 4. Michael Maier, (1613) Atalanta fugiens, Oppenheim: de Bry. Copperplate engraving. In Klossowski de Rola, S, (1988), 76 (c) Thames and Hudson Ltd. London, 1988

Figure 5. Robert Fludd (1617). Utriusque cosmi historia (The metaphysical, physical, and technical history of the two worlds, namely the greater and the lesser). Volume 1, Title page. Oppenheim: Johann Theodor de Bry. Copperplate engraving. Source: http://www.billheidrick.com/Orpd/RFludd/ (c) UC Berkeley and Bill Heidrick 2010

Figure 6. Robert Fludd (1617). Utriusque Cosmi historia (The metaphysical, physical, and technical history of the two worlds, namely the greater and the lesser). Volume 1, p29. Oppenheim: Johann Theodor de Bry. With copperplate engraving. http://www.billheidrick.com/Orpd/RFludd/ (c) UC Berkeley and Bill Heidrick 2010

Figure 7. Robert Fludd (1617). Utriusque Cosmi historia (The metaphysical, physical, and technical history of the two worlds, namely the greater and the lesser). Volume 1, p132. Oppenheim: Johann Theodor de Bry. With copperplate engraving. Source: http://www.billheidrick.com/Orpd/RFludd/ (c) UC Berkeley and Bill Heidrick 2010

Figure 8. Robert Fludd (1617). Utriusque Cosmi historia (The metaphysical, physical, and technical history of the two worlds, namely the greater and the lesser). Volume 1, p109. Oppenheim: Johann Theodor de Bry. With copperplate engraving. Source: http://www.billheidrick.com/Orpd/RFludd/ (c) UC Berkeley and Bill Heidrick 2010

Figure 9. Ioannis Kepler (1619), Harmonices Mundi, Liber V, page 181, First edition, Lincii: Austriae. Source: Facsimile, Posner Memorial Collection http://posner.library.cmu.edu/Posner/books/book.cgi?call=520_K38PI (c) Posner Memorial Collection 2010

 


11th June 2013
Share

Internationally available individual issues & annual subscriptions
Contacts (across 3 sectors) for 500+ UK Commissioners... BUY NOW!
Get seen by commissioners with a 20 image Folio.
Join our thriving membership and enjoy benefits today.

JOIN OUR MAILING LIST

Join our mailing list to get the latest news.