Splendor Solis

Splendor Solis Sol, f. 26r

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Sol, f. 26r

Sunshine permeates the atmosphere on the planet Sol, and its children are sunny in nature. An aureole of brilliant light pierces the cloudy sky at its zenith; seated within is the radiant golden sun god. He appears in a shiny metallic chariot drawn by two grey horses. In his hands the planetary god holds a staff topped by a sun. Under the influence of the planet Sol, the people down on the earth below are engaged in physical exercise alongside aristocratic games and customs. In the left foreground a prince is seated on a throne, holding court in his orange, ermine-collared coat. A group of men clad in fine, brightly coloured garments has assembled around him, partially replicating engravings by Albrecht Dürer. The inserted miniature contains a flask set against a purple background. Beneath its vitreous shell a winged creature in hues of yellow and brown can be seen. The creature has a long tail, three long necks and one white, one red and one black head.
When it comes to interpreting the contents of this particular flask, no consensus has been reached to date. Hartlaub and Roob argue that the creature is a three-headed lion symbolising iron vitriol; Alleau identifies a three-headed dragon, while Lennep sees in the figure a depiction of Cerberus. Even the related passage in the treatise, which deals with the purification of matter, offers no real clue as to the identity and significance of the animal symbol. It may well be that the ambivalence was intentional, that the painter deliberately created a monster which could be either dragon or lion. Once again, we might look to the inscription in the colour cartouche of the Nuremberg manuscript for clues. There it is written: “Draconem nostrum vivum date devorandum leoni ferocissimo” (Give our living dragon the wildest lion to swallow).

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


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