Conference: Through a Glass Darkly: The Visual Culture of Alchemy

Thursday, May 26, 2022, 12:00 amSaturday, May 28, 2022, 12:00 am


Event Description

Through a Glass Darkly: A Conference about the Visual Culture of Alchemy May 2022

About the Conference

The pre-modern science and art of alchemy is famous for its vivid, often bizarre imagery. Alchemical images often represent ingredients and processes allegorically, suggesting analogies with other aspects of creation: from human generation and reproduction to the motion of heavenly bodies. Alchemists also used descriptive and diagrammatic images to convey practical and philosophical information about their art. Such imagery might catch the eye of readers and patrons, or present visual arguments for ideas about nature and artifice. Images also changed over time, as new audiences sought to decipher and adapt earlier depictions—whether reflecting new artistic trends, or revealing changing attitudes towards nature, matter, and antiquity.

This conference explores the visual language of alchemy within the broader cultural and intellectual context of pre-modern Europe. The conference accompanies the Princeton University Library exhibition “Through a Glass Darkly: Alchemy and the Ripley Scrolls, 1400–1700,” open in the Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery until July 17, 2022.


To register and to read more about the conference, visit

Organizers and Sponsors

The event is hosted by the Princeton Institute for the Science and Technology of Materials (PRISM), which houses some of the world’s most sophisticated imaging technology: a modern analogue for alchemists’ attempts to visualize the interior of matter.

Sponsored by the Office of the Dean for Innovation, the Princeton Humanities Council, and the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (SHAC).

Organized by Jennifer M. Rampling (Princeton University).

Jennifer Rampling