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Materiality of Early Modern Alchemy: Objects, Materials, and Art Practices

Posted By Ivana Horacek, Thursday, June 1, 2017

Alchemy has recently become an important concept through which to consider various interconnected early modern practices—ranging from magical to medical, philosophical to Christological, artistic to technological—that prominently feature processes of transformation, conversion, and renovation. An entangled concept that relates to different social, political, and religious aspects of early modern knowledge making, alchemy has as some scholars have suggested come to mean too many things. Rather than reversing the productive conceptualization of alchemy as a symbolic, ideological, and theoretical concept, this panel seeks to utilize the extended understanding of its complex traditions and interdisciplinary approaches to probe its association with materials, technologies, and objects. As a physical and technological process that brings into being purified materials and objects, alchemy offered its practitioners a new understanding of creation, and the act of making. We are thus particularly interested in considering the materiality of early modern alchemy.

Probing into the materiality of alchemy, we invite papers that consider specific modes in which alchemy intersected with art practices. These might for example reflect on the following questions: What did alchemy as practice and concept offer to early modern artists and theorists? What materials and objects, connected to alchemy found their ways into artworks, artists’ workshops, and collections? Were these derived alchemically or simply appropriated to become part of art making? Did patronage and collecting of objects considered to have been derived from alchemical technologies prescribe or influence artistic, aesthetic, or epistemological value?

Please send 150-word abstracts, with a title page and keywords, and a 300-word CV to Ivana Vranic ( and Ivana Horacek (
by June 5, 2017. 

Tags:  alchemy; science; materiality; transformation; mat 

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