MS. Ferguson 271

Unique item. 20 watercolour alchemical figures with explications in French. 18th Century. In two series 1-14, and 1-6. The work is incomplete having lost the outer folios. Thus the explication of the first figure is missing, and the figure corresponding to the seventh figure of the second series is also missing.
Back to descriptions of sequences . Back to symbolism page .

Figure 1. In a valley between two hills upon each of which stands a church, a man digs at the rocks with a pickaxe. Beside him two pairs of red and black serpents emerge. Below him a red and a black dragon face each other. A little above him a naked woman stands with a red crowned child.
Figure 2. This is divided into 3 horizontal strips. In the top strip the man from the first figure is seated on the left, while on the right we see a furnace with distillatory apparatus. Between them a naked man and woman embrace and a red crowned child seems to be beginning to emerge from the upper part of her body. In the central strip the red crowned child kneels on the left and prays to his mother in the centre. On the right is a flaming vase and a vessel. In the lower strip the naked woman is shown on the left with the red crowned child inside her womb. Beside her the same woman is shown but embracing her new born child. On the right a large furnace is shown.
Figure 3. In three layers. Top layer - on left an Angel in cloud sends a bird downwards, while on the right again in a cloud, four Angels look upon three crowned kings and a queen standing before a half clothed woman. In the middle layer - on the right the beggar man rides upon a sheep, while on the left we see a red dragon. In the centre is the naked woman figure. In the bottom strip the beggar with staff stands facing a brick furnace, in the space between is a vase with flames coming from its neck.
Figure 4. In the top layer, on the left the head of a woman crowned with a lunar crescent peeks out from a cloud, while on the right two male figures with sun crowns, also appear in a cloud. In the middle region two male figures, the one on the right crowned, hold a round disc with a picture of a stool supporting a vessel. Below them crawls the naked woman figure. In the lowest area, the beggar philosopher holding a book with sulphur and mercury symbols, gestures towards and discourses with a young prince, beside the same brick built furnace as in the previous figure. Below them are a black dragon and a red dragon respectively.
Figure 5. In the top layer, angel musicians play in the clouds, on the left on violins, on the right on trumpets. In the central region the beggar philosopher still with his book as in the previous figure discourses with a man wearing a floral band around his head who holds in both hands sprays of grass or corn. Between them stands the naked woman from whose upper torso a red crowned child is emerging. In the lower strip a man with a scythe cuts down some flowers which a crowned figure kneels and picks. Beside them is the brick furnace seen in the earlier figures.
Figure 6. In the top region we see only two clouds. In the middle the beggar philosopher with rod and book still gestures at the man with a floral wreath. Between them the red child has emerged a little further from the upper torso of the naked woman. On the left above the beggar-philosopher we see the torso and legs of a naked figure falling into the top of a furnace. In the lowest region a green dragon on the left faces up to a red dragon on the right. In the lower right hand corner is the familiar furnace. Here the division between the lower and middle region seems to have dissolved somewhat.
Figure 7. The top layer of clouds have disappeared, but now we see four black birds descending. On the left we again see the furnace with the figure falling into the top, below this stands the beggar philosopher with his rod and red bound book. In the centre the red child has now emerged to his upper thighs from the naked woman. Three of the black birds descend on this pair around whose heads are six flowers, while to the left the floral wreathed man gestures towards them. He seems to stand in a little stream which flows from the centre to the left, and has dropped his spray of corn in this. Below the red dragon has overcome the green and is in the act of devouring it. The brick furnace is in the lower left but here a large open vessel has been placed on top.
Figure 8. On the top right within a cloud a female figure having a lunar crescent on her head looks down on the scene below. On the left three black birds descend upon the furnace in the opening of which we just see the feet of the figure which has fallen into this in the previous figures. The red child has emerged up to his knees from the woman's upper torso. To the right the floral wreathed man standing beside the little stream, again holds his spray of corn. Below the beggar philosopher holds his rod in this right hand, though his book is nowhere to be seen. The red dragon still struggles to digest the tail of the green dragon, and the furnace appears in its usual lower right corner, but without the vessel on top seen in the previous illustration.
Figure 9. The furnace in the top left now has two trees growing out of it which are tended by a crowned king. At its base is a nine pointed red star. In the centre the red child has now fully emerged from the female figure which is now sunk down to the ground and appears dead, her head being now drawn as a skull. To the right the stream of water has become like to a stream of vapour and rises upwards. Beside this are five figures in different coloured robes, possibly representing the planets, one with a lunar cresent on her head. Below we again see the beggar philosopher with his rod in his left and his book in his right hand, also the red dragon with just the tip of the tail of the green dragon it has swallowed protruding from its mouth. The furnace appears in its usual place.
Figure 10. Above is a layer of cloud within which peers out a female figure in a blue robe with a crescent moon upon it. To the left the round furnace or well is seen with a pair of legs of a body falling into it protruding, and beside it another figure reaches into the open top of the furnace. Also beside and in front of this furnace we see a blue robed figure holding an inverted bunch of flowers leaves and fruits. In the middle space the corpse of the naked woman still lies on the ground. The red child has now grown into a young man but with no crown and stands upon the corpse holding a chalice like object in his right and a round globe in his left hand. A blue banner is draped over his shoulder. To the right we see two figures, one holding a bunch of flowers in a crimson robe and the other holding a spray of leaves in a blue robe. Below the beggar philosopher now holding his rod in his right hand and not showing his book, stands beside the Red dragon still devouring the tail of the green dragon and the familiar furnace on the right.
Figure 11. This is now definitely in two layers. Above we see on the left the furnace or walled well with a tree and a pair of legs sticking out the top. beside it a green clothed man reaches into the top of the furnace. On the right the layer of clouds has descended and detached a circular cloudy area within which we see a woman clothed in green and holding a lunar crescent. The corpse of the naked woman has now disappeared and the red male figure now holding a caduceus in his right hand has stepped down into the lower space of the illustration. Here he meets the familiar figures of the beggar philosopher with his rod, the red dragon who has now entirely swallowed the green dragon while on the right we still note the furnace.
Figure 12. Within a circular space of clouds or flowing water, the red male figure holding a flaming caduceus is now crowned and wearing a purple robe.
Figure 13. In three layers. At the top we see the red crowned young man now naked, to his left and right two beggars hold out their caps for alms. In the space below a young naked child holds up its hands in an attitude of prayer towards the red man. Below on the left there is set a bed within which we see a man. From the right a doctor approaches. On the ground we see a glass flask.
Figure 14. In two levels. At the top five crowned figures are seated at a banquet table. In the lower level, the man still lies in bed but on the right two doctors administer medicine to a naked woman who kneels in an attitude of prayer.
Figure 1 (of the second sequence. This new section being entitled "Multiplication"). Within a circle of clouds or flowing water a crowned figure with red skin and wearing a purple robe and holding a caduceus, is approached by two men.
Figure 2. The two men have removed the purple robe and the crown from the central figure with the red skin, who now seems about to sink down to the ground. The circle of water or clouds has now been broken and appears as a crescent in the lower part of the illustration.
Figure 3. In two layers. Above, two men gesture towards each other, the one on the left has a book with sulphur and Mercury symbols. Below we see, set within a rectangle of the four winds who blow in to the centre, a naked man flesh coloured lies in the stream of water of clouds. Beside him the upper torso of a red man with flaming hair rises out of the water, while below a man in blue robe and winged helmet crouches on the ground.
Figure 4. In two layers. Above the two men stand to the left of a furnace. One man holds a triangular stand which seems to support a convoluted piece of glassware. Below within the rectangle of the four winds the red flaming haired man still rises from the waters while beneath him also rises a naked young man with winged helmet.
Figure 5. The two man appear holding the purple robe while beside them lies the crown. The waters have now formed themselves into a small circle on the left and a nature naked man with beard is rising out of the water. On the right, one wind only blows upon a blue robed and winged helmeted figure who lies on the ground.
Figure 6. The red bodied flaming-haired figure stands between a sun and moon. To the left is a crowned man, and to the right is a naked Hermes with winged helmet and bearing a caduceus. Under the ground below we see five crowned heads in a row, with another five set in an inverted row below them.