The Life and Work of an Alchemist in Pictures

Magda Dostálová



This paper deals with the displaying of alchemy in paintings, illustrations and architecture in the Early Modern period. On each of the examples of paintings and illustrations the author presents various aspects of the alchemist's life and his work. It does not deal with symbolic alchemical iconography, but rather with imaging of alchemical workshops, their equipment and of alchemists themselves. It focuses on depictions of furnishings of laboratories portrayed in renaissance pictures, in illustrated alchemical manuscripts and rarely even in architecture. It also provides an outlook of representations arising from literary criticism of alchemy. European humanists often criticized alchemists and presented them with ridicule as fools and thieves. Finally, it deals with some examples of genre works, where alchemists were often satirically portrayed, but on the other hand with a certain respect, as educated scholars. Early Modern fine art represents different aspects of the alchemist's life and offers one of the ways to approach an understanding of their scientific activities. However, as the study shows, these visual materials should be approached critically.


alchymie; výtvarné umění; raný novověk; alchymická laboratoria

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TEORIE VĚDY / THEORY OF SCIENCE – journal for interdisciplinary studies of science is published twice a year by the Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences (Centre for Science, Technology, and Society Studies). ISSN 1210-0250 (Print) ISSN 1804-6347 (Online) MK ČR E 18677 web: /// email: