Emblem XXVI

<p><strong>Fugue/Emblem XXVI</strong></p><br />
<pre>Maier, <em>Atalanta fugiens</em> (1618)<br />CHF, Roy G. Neville Collection</pre>
 

Emblem XXVI holds a special place in the Atalanta fugiens as the middle point in Maier's alchemical emblem book.

 

The motto reads: "The fruit of human wisdom is the wood of life."

The image is a personification of Wisdom (sapientia) who is depicted as a crowned female holding two ribbon-like banderoles in her hands inscribed with the following two Latin phrases: longitudo dierum et sanitas ("length of days and health"), and gloria ac divitiæ infinitæ ("honour and infinite riches").

The epigram reads: "There is no greater wisdom in human affairs | Than the manner in which wealth and health arise | Her right hand holds salubrious length of years | Her left hand conceals heaps of wealth | If anyone would approach her with hand and reason | She will be for him like the Tree of Life."

Once again, text and image work in concert to tell a nuanced story. Lady Sapientia stands at the centre of a pathway between beams of celestial light that pour down through clouds in the sky, and a tree whose roots can be seen through the ground. Significantly, the text in the two banderoles that unfurl from Sapienta's hands are excerpted from Proverbs 3:16, a passage that is essentially a reflection about the blessedness of those who find wisdom. The discourse that follows Emblem XXVI expounds upon the idea that wisdom is the embodiment of knowledge and the application of "true chemistry" - hence, Maier tells us that Wisdom and Alchemy are revealed as divine gifts.

In these ways, Emblem XXVI's depiction of Lady Sapientia constitutes an important placemark within the Atalanta for it shows through allegory the pathway to salvation, which is attainable through hermetic knowledge gained by theoretical and practical understanding, and for which Maier's fugue/emblem sets throughout the work are building blocks. Note how the banderole in Sapienta's right hand connects to the empyrean light, and how the one in her left connects to the roots of the tree beside her, an evocation of the Tree of Life. Through this action, Lady Sapientia - Wisdom - becomes the bridge between the alchemist's receipt of divine enlightenment and attainment of the philosophers' stone.

Lady Sapientia
Emblem XXVI