A hand holding a burning fire and pointing at a wound in a thigh. This is not a chance occurrence if you see all that in a renaissance altarpiece triptych.
Andrea di Giovanni, also known as Andrea da Murano, is a quite unknown Venetian painter nowadays. But back at the turn of the sixteenth century, he was widely taken into consideration by his Venetian contemporaries, so much to shadow the Vivarini family, his colleagues from Murano Isle.
The triptych we are examining ( originally a polyptych) did beautify the walls of San Pietro Martyr da Verona church in the Murano lagoon isle. After the inglorious end of the San Marco Republic, the church was closed down, and the painting was brought to Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venezia (n. 28).
If not for the sign “Opus Andreae de Murano” or the work by Andrea da Murano, our modern critics would be more inclined to make other attributions for the canvas. Indeed he was a conventional painter, and like his fellow painter in the isle, the Vivarini, he was not so much attracted by the trends of his age. The altarpiece polyptych was probably ready between 1475-78 when significant artists were in Venice (Mantegna, Bellini). Still, Andrea da Murano’s painting denotes a fixity unknown to these prominent masters.
Nevertheless, this triptych displays some details that the above-mentioned prominent masters would have wrapped in mysterious mythological allegories and, what’s more, never placed in the central part of the work. This painting is so culturally elementary to go unrecognized through the centuries.
Despite the location (St. Pietro da Verona church), the central personages of the canvas are St. Vincent Ferrer and St. Roch. St. Pietro da Verona was only in the left panel, while in the right one, St.Sebastian is undoubtedly the best known. Historians have taught us that in the original contracts made for altarpieces like this, commonly, artists were free to choose the personages they considered the best for their symbolism to be put on display, often these agreements were limited to the number of heads, hands, personages to be painted ( all those different items had different prizes indeed). I said this because it is always amazing for us to see how many relatively unknown saints and martyrs the renaissance artists succeeded in discovering.
But let Andrea da Murano’s painting tell us his effortless philosophy. I beg to differ from those saying these martyrs, with their torture tools and martyrdom, were to allow our spiritual elevation. But coincidently, I notice St. Vincent handling a burning fire and pointing at St. Roch’s naked thigh. Why is that? And why did Andrea da Murano paint a wound-like spot in St. Roch’s torn pants? We could have allowed taking the fire in St. Vincent’s hand as a generic “divine fire” ( as it is, in fact, but generic). But we fail to understand why a burning fire indicates a thigh because the thigh is the detail that allows us to suspect some alchemical coincidences in the canvas.
As you may evince from my article “The Pythagorean Thigh in the Northern Sky“, a thigh may symbolize the North Star, Polaris. So the fire, on the hand, should not be a generic divine fire, but the sacred alchemical fire for antonomasia: the Secret Fire, or Philosophical Fire—the Alpha et Omega of our alchemical works. The secret and impalpable substance an alchemist does try to extract from the earth’s mass and sky.
If my theory is true, St. Sebastian and St. Pietro da Verona’s tortures are instead allegories of our destructing, or better dissolving, phases performed by our Secret Fire. Yes, because Secret Fire is also Mercurius and Sulphur, and consequently our Alcahest and Philosophers Stone. It is our Spirit of Life. Our First Matter is to perform all the alchemical operations.
The personages here painted could be metals and humans to be worked to extract their Souls. The butcher knife half-splitting St. Pietro da Verona on the left is an allegory of his dissolution, and the same can be said of St. Sebastian.
On the left, we can see the upper part initially constituting the whole polyptych: an iconographic theme of the Virgin Mary we can notice everywhere in the Campi and Campielli (squares and tiny squares before Venetian churches), I mean the “Madonna della Grazia” or compassionate mother. I don’t intend to suggest anything on this Madonna image, but the “Mother” symbolizes Mercurius. Note the two vases at the end of the saints’ rows. They are not ordinary vases but threefold. Strangely enough, like our threefold Mercurii. And a vase in Alchemy is a symbol of our Mercurius. Why did Andrea da Murano add them?
Nevertheless, all these considerations are pointless if we don’t try to discover why St. Vincent, with the fire burning in his hand, is indicating St. Roch, with the naked thigh. But we should say the wound in the thigh. Our Secret Fire at hand is a magnet for the thigh-Stars, or the Secret Fire from the Stars, Mercurius Sideribus in latin.
The wound does signify a “ slot” in the stars, a window in the stars: the year we can try to perform this attraction between two magnets since one attracts the other. One Secret Fire/Mercurius does enthrall the other. The central part of the Andrea da Murano triptych does represent a mirror. Earth-Sky. Microcosm and Macrocosm. As above, so below.
Note the little rose sculptured in the upper portal of San Pietro Martyr Church. It is not a very Christian iconographic theme.
See also Fulcanelli & External Influences and Introitus Apertus vs Open Entrance. Chap 2 , Frazier’s Two Laws of Magic and Sun Stone ;