It has been a splendid week doing talks and research in southern California (you can see all my slides for the talks here). One of the highlights of this trip was a special visit to the Getty in L.A. to see two adjacent exhibits (one at the Getty Museum and the other at the Getty Research Institute) on the manuscripts, handbooks, recipes, dyes, and material culture connected to alchemy. I have posted a review of the exhibits over on the Forbes blog, if you would like to read the full post, but I am including a number of pictures of their selection of recreated pigments for your enjoyment below.
One significant lesson that these exhibits underscore is that while alchemy is often marginalized and demeaned for being a failed science (in terms of its objective to turn base metals into gold), like many things in life, failure often creates opportunity. In the case of alchemy? We got many new pigments, inks, metals, and scientific approaches to metallurgy as a result of the intense interest in finding a means for transmuting matter (the mythical philosopher’s stone!). I would say this is a proverbial silver lining, but perhaps it is also a golden one.
Note that all alchemy images and materials connected to the exhibits are Open Access and available via the Getty Research Institute’s section on the Internet Archive.
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