Item No: mcai280261
Title: Miniature from an alchemical manuscript
Additional Title: Unknown alchemical treatise
Rare Book Department
Alchemy, a forerunner of modern science, sought to discern the spiritual and temporal nature of reality, its structure, laws, and functions through the physical properties of substances. Its language and method employed cryptic symbolism to convey the relationships between the physical and metaphysical worlds. This miniature and its sister leaf, Lewis E M 28:27, are typical examples of alchemical art. Here, the complete and undivided unity of winged Hermaphrodite is represented by a single crown and unified body. Hermaphrodite stands on two mounds above the mercurial dragon, and holds a single coiled snake representing unity born of the triad in his/her right hand and a chalice with three serpents representing the three realms of nature with his/her left.
Because these symbols were generally used by alchemical writers and because there is no surviving text, it is unclear which text these miniatures illustrated, although it has been suggested that they once belonged to a copy of the Rosarium philosophorum, attributed to Arnald of Villanova (ca. 1240 - 1311).
Crowned Hermaphrodite (Androgyne or Rebis)
Sirsi Catalog Key:
Cardinal Point:northern ?
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Lewis E M 28:26-27