Produced on the eve of the Thirty Years' War that ravaged much of Europe from 1618 to 1648, Michael Maier's alchemical emblem book, the Atalanta fugiens is a truly remarkable work that bespeaks of a return to a Golden Age. Beautifully illustrated with fifty copper-plate engravings, this graphic articulation of alchemical theory and laboratory technology is also set to music.
Upon entering "Browse Exhibits," you will encounter two presentations: Atalanta 101 and Alchemical Song: Recreating Maier's Music. The first exhibit provides an overview about how, and why, Michael Maier used song and pictures to allegorically express the alchemical system for creating the philosophers’ stone - the agent of metallic transmutation that Maier and his contemporaries believed would create the panacea that would restore to humankind perfect health and longevity. The second exhibit (presently under construction!) is dedicated to documenting the recreation of a selection of Maier's fugues, recorded March 2014 in the Sanctuary at the Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia.
To understand Maier's message, the reader must engage with this work in its multimedial totality. Given the complex, cross-disciplinary nature of the Atalanta fugiens, brace yourself! You're going to enter into a bygone world of alchemical laboratory practices where iconographic and musicological analysis provide keys to unlocking the Christian-cabalistic-alchemical ideology that binds together this work, like a golden netting spun from intellectual creativity, executed with a virtuosity that astonishes the modern mind.
Donna Bilak 2014