Genre: Alchemy

The Secret Art of Refining Base Substances and the Soul
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Alchemy is one of the most mysterious and fascinating legacies of the Middle Ages. Rooted in ancient China, India, and Greece, alchemy was practiced most prolifically in Europe from the Late Middle Ages through the Early Modern period. Although most prominent during the Renaissance, when the princes of Europe often had court astrologers and alchemists, it continued to be practiced secretly but perhaps even more broadly through the 18th century.

The central pursuit of alchemy was the discovery of the “philosopher’s stone”, a mysterious substance with various attributes ranging from the transmutation of metals and gems to being the critical ingredient in creating an elixir of life. Although discounted today as a pseudoscience, alchemy continues to be a source of fascination today, influencing popular works like the Harry Potter book series.

Splendor Solis

A Bathing Alchemist

In alchemy, albedo is the second of four major stages in the process, along with nigredo, citrinitas, and rubedo. It is a stage of purification for both substances and for the purification of one’s soul, which is symbolized by a white dove in medieval literature and art. The ultimate goal of the albedo is to restore the soul to its original state of purity and receptivity.
Like most alchemical manuscripts, this German Renaissance work is filled with allegorical imagery in order to guard alchemy’s secrets from the uninitiated. Before a splendid background of classical architecture, a male attendant fans the flames of a large brick bath. The bearded man sitting in a bath with the white dove on his head symbolizes the cleansing of the soul.

The Authors