By Karen Pinkus
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Extra resources for Alchemical mercury : a theory of ambivalence
But perhaps it is already incorrect to speak of “insertion” as if the scene existed in some real spatiotemporal dimension, onto which the emblems are merely stuck (or better, etched) like so many appliqués. Could one say that the moral content associated with emblematics is always already inherent in the very conception of the everyday? The assumption that the foreground scene represents “life” and the framed background scene represents a static, lifeless moral, may indeed appear obvious given what we know of generic conventions surrounding depictions of alchemy; that is, it is an assumption that could achieve wide consensus among interpreters.
13 Form and ﬁgures are so fused that, as the narrator notes, “I thought they [the homunculi] were meer christal” (204). Read against the background of this iconology and Paracelsian material immateriality, Dou’s painting provides a symbolic matrix in which painting and alchemy ﬁnd themselves absolutely intertwined around the clarity of the glass. The clear glass as womb is the place of alchemical transformation, and sometimes it is the material of the transformation itself— that is, the glass is not simply a container.
Filippo Lippi, Annunciation and Predella with Scenes from the Life of Saint Nicholas (attributed to Pesellino), 1440. S. Lorenzo, Florence, Italy. Photo credit: Scala / Art Resource, NY. 48 Visibilia in a manner analogous to the way light passes uncontaminated through a transparent medium” (Meiss 105). Later, Paracelsus wrote of the vessel in his Coelum philosophorum: All things are concealed in all. One of them all is the concealer of the rest— their corporeal vessel, external, visible, and movable.