Splendor Solis

Splendor Solis Red Sun, f. 33v

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Red Sun, f. 33v

Depicted as a large red ball with golden rays, the round body of the animate sun in the sky is almost touching the horizon. The sun’s human face is vividly captured in gold-embellished hues of red. As a result, details such as the wrinkled forehead and furrowed eyebrows are clearly discernible upon the serious countenance. The golden rays emanating from the figure’s circumference enhance its appearance, lending it the nimbus of a mythical deity. Backed by a light-blue sky with white cumulus clouds, the sun lights up the almost monochrome landscape that extends all the way to the horizon in shades of green and blue. The picture embodies the perfect complement to the miniature of the setting black sun in every regard.
The accompanying passage in the treatise describes the final union of the purified substances or polarities – sulphur and quicksilver for example – whose composition leads to the creation of the philosopher’s stone. Since the colour red stands for the opus magnum, for purified gold, there can be no doubt that the illustration of the red sun embodies the ultimate goal. It symbolises the state of perfection, the magic wonders of the philosopher’s stone or, to put it succinctly, the splendour of the sun which, as invoked by the Splendor Solis, beneficently spreads out over all the earth.

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


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