Through illustrations notoriously difficult to interpret, even when considered in conjunction with the chapters they presumably depict, the sixteenth-century manuscript Splendor Solis exemplifies the highly symbolical approach to representing alchemical processes. The central images of the pictures are typically characterized by the fantastic: mythic animals, beheading, and allusions to the classical gods. Yet, among all the wondrous creatures and allegorical scenes, one very familiar, even ordinary animal regularly appears in the illustrations of this particular manuscript—the horse. Its very ubiquity offers insight into the larger picture of alchemy: some of the uses of the animal are unique to alchemy; others reflect the daily life or ordinariness of the alchemist’s culture. This article examines those illustrations in which horses appear and discusses how their depiction contributes to understanding the alchemical processes represented in the visual and verbal texts of the manuscript.
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