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Rivers running in the wilderness, with serpents and fire between them; representing the stage of 'multiplication' in the alchemical process. Coloured etching after etching, ca. 17th century.

  • Flamel, Nicolas, -1418.
Reference
38199i
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view Rivers running in the wilderness, with serpents and fire between them; representing the stage of 'multiplication' in the alchemical process. Coloured etching after etching, ca. 17th century.

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Credit: Rivers running in the wilderness, with serpents and fire between them; representing the stage of 'multiplication' in the alchemical process. Coloured etching after etching, ca. 17th century. Wellcome Collection. Public Domain Mark

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About this work

Description

Flamel's text: "there were painted desarts, or wildernesses, in the middest whereof ran many faire fountaines, from whence there issued out a number of serpents, which ran up and downe here and there" (ibid. p. 8). L. Dixon comments that Poisson and de Grivry "see this image as a symbol of the 'multiplication' of the stone ... This is certainly the proper reading, for in this image the opposite qualities of humid and dry, the "desarts" and "fountains" are intended to suggest the proper environment for the serpents to spawn and increase. The alchemical fountain as a nurturing force equivalent to the 'fountain of life' is illustrated in the Rosarium philosophorum of 1550" (ibid. p. xxix)

Publication/Creation

[Place of publication not identified] : [publisher not identified]

Physical description

1 print : etching, with watercolour ; platemark 20.3 x 14.5 cm

References note

Jacques van Lennep, Alchimie, Brussels 1984, pp. 134-144

Lettering note

Bears number: 8

Reference

Wellcome Library no. 38199i

Reproduction note

The Livre takes its inspiration from a text by Nicolas Flamel (ca. 1330-1417) first published in France in 1612, then in England in 1624. Flamel tells of how a book written by one Abraham the Jew fell into his hands and goes on to describe its illustrations, which he does not attempt to reproduce. Only in 1672, in W. Salmon's edition of the book, did the images come to be actualised. See: Nicolas Flamel, His exposition of the hieroglyphicall figures (1624), ed. Laurinda Dixon, London 1994, p. 8ff.

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