Art and Alchemy

1st of April 2014

"Art and Alchemy – the secrets of transformation" is the theme chosen for an exhibition at the Kunstpalast Museum as part of the Fine Arts Quadrennial in Dusseldorf.

Arranged in chronological order, from the masters of antiquity up to the present time, this exhibition invites the visitor to discover the fascination that alchemy has held for so many artists. It highlights the transmission and circulation of knowledge in artists’ studios: the exchanges that have taken place between artists and their students, formulae and the transmission of knowledge through books, drawings and other objects. Ganay’s manuscript is an excellent example from the 17th century. The manuscript, a contemporary copy of Rubens’s notebook, underlines the artist’s desire to transmit his theories and knowledge and to be recognized as "pictor doctus".

Several elements in the manuscript show the interest and even the involvement that the great artist had in alchemy, at least from a theoretical point of view. We can see theoretical notes in which Rubens sets out his principles for the representation of perspective, symmetry and anatomy. The theories developed emanate directly from disciplines such as alchemy, the mystique of Pythagoras’s numbers and the Kabbalah. A series of drawings, for instance, shows the relationship between the human form and the three geometric shapes of the square, the circle and the triangle. According to Rubens, each human body comes from these three basic shapes.

The manuscript, which is one of the four known copies of Rubens’s notebook , destroyed in the fire at Charles Boulle’s workshop in Paris, was purchased by the King Baudouin Foundation in 2012 and entrusted to the Rubens House in Antwerp.

Practical details:

Kunstpalast Museum, Ehrenhof 4-5, 40479 Dusseldorf
From April 5 to 10 August 2014
Tuesday to Saturday from 11h to 18h; Thursdays from 11h to 21h.
Closed on Mondays
Tickets: €6