Well. There's a simple ton of complexity going on in this difficult, famous print by the great Mathias Merian—its like a moving puzzle to me, complicated by the virtually changing size of its pieces. There’s just too much in it that I don’t understand, too much archaeo-religico-alchemical bubbly going on for me to make much deep sense of it all. I do like that it is all coming from the sky, though, which is why I’ve selected it for this continuing series
The engraving, Tabula Smaradina (“Emerald Tablet”) is Merian’s interpretation of the alchemical cosmology, a schemata and representation of the order of things. It appears (first) in Johann Daniel Mylius Tractatus III Seu Basilica Philosophica… (1618) and makes subsequent appearances in other works by the author, as well as in Lukas Jennis’ Musaeum Hermeticum (1625, see below).
Basically, the Emerald Tablet shows the opening of a complex heaven and the delivering of the philosopher’s stone to the earth. It is a magnificent effort and no doubt has a great power to alchemists, and I can understand only a bit and a piece here and there. For example, in the bottom right, we see a couple of people holding a((n) eclipsed?) Moon, standing on the wings of an eagle which protects a double hemispheric representation of the constellations. The figure on the right is a naked woman, who may well represent Luna: her right breast is a star, and from her armpit is a streaming torrent of stars which comes close into contact with shrubs labeled with the astrological signs of the planets. The cluster of grapes in her right hand and the stream that she is straddling must indicate a generation, or a birth, or rebirth, or time, or the universe. Luna is connected via something to the heaven-element which in turn is connected on the left sign of the print to a man holding a sun, who I guess must be Sol. Heaven and Earth, Brother Sun and Sister Moon, and so on. From here it all gets away from me, no that it isn’t gone already.
Musæum Hermeticum, omnes sopho-spagyricæ artis discipulos fidelissime erudiens, quo pacto summa illa veraque Medicina, qua res omne, qualemcumque defectum patientes, instaurari possunt (quæ alias Benedictus Lapis Sapientum appellatur) inveniri ac haberi queat inveniri ac haberi queat. Continens tractatus chymicos novem præatantissimos, quorum nomina et seriem versa pagella indicabit. In gratiam filiorum doctrinæ, quibus Germanicum Idioma ignotum, in Latinum conversum ac juris publici factum. Jennis
To give you an idea of what such books were about I’ev included the “chapter headings”:
4. Three Treatise of Philalethes
6. Open Entrance to the Closed Palace - Philalethes
7. A Tract of Great Price
8. The Only True Way
9. The Testament of Cremer
10. The Glory of the World
11. The Waterstone of the Wise
12. The Golden Tract concerning the Philosopher's Stone