In this Perugino’s fresco, a rod is accompanied by white doves, a serpent, and a carriage. But, moreover, it is held by its very synonym: Moon-Diana.
This painting is part of a monumental cycle of frescoes inside Collegio del Cambio in Perugia, Perugino’s hometown (1). Painted from 1496 to 1500, it is known as Perugino’s masterpiece, and he probably had the feeling since he placed his auto-portrait, accompanied by a self-satisfied latin inscription, facing his triumph in the opposite pillar.
The “volta della Sala delle Udienze”, or audience hall’s vault, is covered by the seven planets represented by the seven major classical deities. Apollo, like the Sun, is in the center. Commonly, this painted vault is taken as an example of a Universe representation. Nevertheless, one can be puzzled by the main topic of the fresco on the walls: a virtues representation, that’s to say, the four cardinal ones – Prudence, Justice, Strength, and Temperance – and the theological three – Faith, Hope, and Charity. Most modern art critics run over this strange blend, saying being a merging of classical and catholic knowledge.
Almost all agree that these Perugino frescoes are the Italian humanistic painting masterpiece, only surpassed by Raffaello Sanzio’s, Perugino’s pupil, Vatican Rooms. They are right; nevertheless, they fail to understand the real essence of humanism since the revived interest in ancient Greek and Roman thought wasn’t detached from supernatural matters. Planets and Virtues could not be in connection but through a hermetic line of thinking.
In fact, why give a rod to the Moon if she is not our Moon? We have already mentioned rod symbolism and see how this sign may take origin from the biblical Moses episode of the water springing out of a rock (2). And how salts volatilization, during distillation or sublimation, is involved (3). But in Perugino’s Moon representation, we know precisely when the first rod does start: from the preliminary works.
The Moon, in Alchemy, stands for several meanings. Of course, the rule of three gives her many possibilities (4), where she represents our essential salt volatilization and the transformation from raw matter to our Secret Fire/Mercurius. Our Water, even if not in a liquid state.
Now, we have two ways to go to try to explain the symbology of this painting: the first is operational alchemy, already mentioned above, and the second is mythological. In Albrecht Dürer and the Backwards Apollo, I have sketched the character of Diana/Artemis, Apollo’s twin sister. Indeed, Olympus’ great nocturnal huntress represents the moon’s phases. But that’s not enough.
In this Perugino’s fresco, a rod is accompanied by white doves, a serpent, and a carriage. But, moreover, it is held by its very synonym: Moon-Diana. This painting is part of a monumental cycle of frescoes inside Collegio del Cambio in Perugia, Perugino’s hometown (1). Painted from 1496 to 1500, it is known as Perugino’s […]
The Moon, our Moon, is not separated from the other planets-deities in this artwork. Each of them stands for a given operation. The Moon is the first, and the Sun-Apollo is the final goal, the successful end of our alchemical works. Most important: all the planets and deities here represented are nothing more and nothing less than our initial Moon/Mercurius transmuted to our final Sun/Perfect Red through all the others. That’s the meaning of the carriages they are all traveling on.
We see the evidence of a Moon representation just by the latin “Luna” inscription under the lunar scythe and the sign of astrological cancer on the carriage wheel. But the white woman, so immodestly painted nude, is unquestionably Diana, Apollo’s sister.
Diana is in the mainstream of hunting female deities, like Atalanta (5). Hunters are looking for victims to dissolve; their bows represent our Universal Dissolvent.
The two serpents brought along by Diana’s servants represent caduceus, which we will discuss when discussing Asclepius. For the moment, note the typical flowing movements of serpents: that of watery substances.
Diana’s white garment is referred to as the white color of our Mercurius coming out of the putrefaction black ( see an Opus Magnum scheme). The doves stand for this “whiteness” suddenly appearing on the surface of the black mass as though it has landed from the sky.
Finally, the rod, which might look like an arrow just for the presence of the bow on the other hand of the Goddess, but it is not. It is a rod, indeed, as well as a scene summary. It is Diana, our dissolving hunter. As solemnly declared by the griffins ( other symbols of Mercurius) around the frame.
- See also Pietro Perugino and the Black Horned Motherhood ;
- Raffaello Sanzio and a Rod Semantics and Cemetery of Priscilla and the Alchemical Rod Origin ;
- Benedetto Mazzotta and Rods Celebrating a Headpiece ;
- See also Sun & Moon at the Turn of the First Millennium , Philosophia Reformata, Father Sun & Mother Moon , Kriegsmann/ Sun, Moon, Wind and Earth in Tabula Smaragdina , Stoll, the Lacinius Translator on Male and Female Elements ;
- Atalanta Fugiens and the Golden Apples ;