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Alchemical MercuryA Theory of Ambivalence$
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Karen Pinkus

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804760324

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804760324.001.0001

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A Chemical Couple

A Chemical Couple

(p.90) § 3 A Chemical Couple
Alchemical Mercury
Stanford University Press

This chapter examines a portrait of Antoine Lavoisier and his wife, painted by Jacques-Louis David in 1788, in which Lavoisier presents himself as a dignified scientist. While the untidy desk of an alchemist is typically depicted holding a skull, an hourglass, or a broken vessel, these symbols of transience are, in essence, replaced in the portrait by nonsymbolic (diegetic) objects of science. Lavoisier's rationalism is thus figured precisely in contrast to earlier (alchemical) iconology.

Keywords:   portraits, chemical marriage, Antoine Lavoisier, Jacques-Louis David, alchemy

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