Alchemical Mercury: A Theory of Ambivalence by Karen Pinkus

By Karen Pinkus

How do we account, in a rigorous method, for alchemy's ubiquity? we predict of alchemy because the transformation of a base fabric (usually lead) into gold, yet "alchemy" is a notice in huge stream in lifestyle, referred to as upon to satisfy a metaphoric responsibility because the magical transformation of fabrics. nearly each tradition and time has had a few type of alchemy. This publication seems at alchemy, no longer at anyone specific example alongside the old timeline, now not as a tradition or concept, now not as a style of redemption, yet as a theoretical challenge, associated with genuine gold and actual construction on this planet. What emerges because the least universal denominator or "intensive estate" of alchemy is ambivalence, the most unlikely and paradoxical coexistence of 2 incompatible parts. Alchemical Mercury strikes from antiquity, during the golden age of alchemy within the Dutch 17th century, to conceptual paintings, to replacement fuels, preventing to imagine with writers akin to Dante, Goethe, Hoffmann, the Grimm Brothers, George Eliot, and Marx. Eclectic and wide-ranging, this is often the 1st learn to think about alchemy relating to literary and visible idea in a accomplished approach.

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Hollander explains: “Lairesse’s concept of the bywerk is clearly exemplified by the ancillary views in seventeenth-century paintings. The associative, explanatory function of the ancillary view reflects its heritage in medieval and Renaissance narrative expansion” (46). Initially, then, it may seem that the Gallé etching contradicts Lairesse’s notion of temporality in that the background scene apparently takes place after the foreground scene. That the family goes to the poorhouse after attempting alchemy is not what is important so much as that this secondary scene, or bywerk, clarifies the status of alchemy, like a cannonball that “scatters everything in its path” and resolves the entire composition.

74–II. Photo: Jörg P. Anders. Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany. Photo credit: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz / Art Resource, NY. figure 8. Albrecht Dürer, St. Jerome in His Study, 1514. Inv. 401–2. Photo: Jörg P. Anders. Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany. Photo credit: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz / Art Resource, NY. 8 In a number of treatises from the fifteenth century, aqua fortis refers to a highly acidic liquid (perhaps nitric acid) that is capable of dissolving all metals except gold.

Indeed, there are a number of reflective surfaces, including another glass vessel in a niche, the mirror (reflecting the white papers of the doctor’s books), and the hourglass. The room, however, is extremely dark. In the left-hand corner—and this is the second surprising element—sits a figure wrapped in red cloth with his or her back to the viewer. This ghostly presence is literally marginal to the central interaction between the doctor and maid. 4 Perhaps this bodily mass in the corner is a gesture toward everyday life (the individual just happened to be there when ter Borch came across the scene), yet simultaneously, it hints at the shadowy nature of the doctor’s work.

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