Overview


Alchimia die kunst redet  / Thurneisser zum Thurn
 
Of uncertain etymological origins, the term al-kimiya' came into vogue among Arabo-Persian scientists in the Middle Ages, and recent scholarship has unearthed clear evidence for the seeds of alchemical practice in biblical and Greco-Roman antiquity. In its golden age in early modern Europe, alchemical theory spanned the arts and sciences, treating a diverse range of subjects, including the visual language of allegorical symbolism; technological advances in mineralogy and metallurgy, and their applications to the plastic arts; color-theory and the manufacture of paint pigments; as well as revolutionary developments in pharmaceutical medicine, which ultimately impacted political philosophy and the art of urban planning. Yet, by the time of the Enlightenment, alchemy was increasingly derided as a pseudoscience, and modern historians traditionally have tended to dismiss it. However, recent studies have shed new light on the influence of alchemy in early modern Europe, indicating that alchemy occupied a vital and central space in the intellectual and cultural landscape of the early modern period.

The Art of Alchemy research project traces the trajectory of alchemy in its golden age and resituates its centrality in the arts and sciences of the period. Because of alchemy's central role in early modern intellectual culture, it has attracted attention from a diverse and multidisciplinary set of scholars, from historians of science to scholars of early modern art, sociology, and literature. Thus, this project provides an opportunity for scholars from a variety of backgrounds to productively engage with primary materials in the Research Institute's Special Collections, and with each other.

Collections


Synthesis of the Philosophers' Stone from Book of Alchemical Formulas
 
The Getty Research Institute is uniquely suited to host this project and highlight the scholarly importance of its discipline. The acquisition of the Manly Palmer Hall collection in 1995 provided the Getty Research Institute with one of the world's leading collections of illustrated alchemical books from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment.

Outcomes


The Art of Alchemy research team will organize an international symposium and exhibition at the Getty Research Institute in 2015–16, and a publication.