Splendor Solis

Splendor Solis Alchemical Philosopher, f. 4r


Alchemical Philosopher, f. 4r

The second miniature depicts a scholar of alchemy clad in antique-style robes and wearing a Phrygian cap upon his head. Behind the figure of the scholar, which more or less fills the picture, a vast landscape in shades of lush green and blue extends off into the distance. A bright sky arches above the man and the landscape, turning a gentle yellowish orange at the horizon in the warmth of the rising sun (Lat. aurora consurgens). The garments worn by the alchemical philosopher, as alchemy’s sages are known, are red and violet. The cap and the long, double gold-edged robe are radiant crimson, the colour of perfection, whereas the shawl draped over the man’s left shoulder and arm is purplish violet. The scholar points with his right index finger to the object of his attention, a tall glass flask filled with a golden liquid which he is holding in his left hand. Attached to the top of the slender glass flask is a decoratively meandering black ribbon upon which the words “Eamus Quesitum Quasuor Elemementorum naturas” are written in gold letters.
This (not altogether orthographically correct) sentence was one of several sourced by the painter of the Splendor Solis from a manuscript known as The Golden Treatise by Hermes Trismegistus. As a motto, it calls for a search for the “natures”, i.e. the properties and appearances of the four elements. This being the case, it is quite reasonable to presume a connection between the scholar and the legendary figure of Hermes Trismegistus. A syncretic fusion of the Egyptian god, Thoth, and the Greek god, Hermes, Thrice-Great (“Trismegistus”) Hermes is commonly regarded as the father of alchemy. Owing to the close resemblance of the alchemical philosopher to the figure in the seventh miniature of the Aurora Consurgens, it is likely that the latter was the painter’s source for the Splendor Solis.

Jörg Völlnagel 
(Art historian, research associate at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin)

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