Additionally, Giovanni Bellini is known not only for his delicacy and harmony but for the love and creativity he delineated in his details: the hand, the egg’s section, and the tree growing up from a dying man. All hits from a masterpieces painter. It was impossible that his apprentice’s future works weren’t at least in some Venetian churches. Because generally, unless they remained assigned to backgrounds, young apprentices grew into painters with independent careers. And the Bellini family was not known to be jealous of their pupils. They had apprentices like Andrea Mantegna, Vittore Carpaccio, Giorgione, Tiziano Vecellio, and perhaps Lorenzo Lotto. This was their school. Of course, an ink drawing with simple watercolors, confined in a tiny space free from written verses, is like singing a cappella compared to the whole orchestra of oil on canvas.
Carbonelli pays attention to the poor Latin used by the anonymous author and the later corrections another hand. The self-proclaimed Ioannes seems to have been a boy who was given a relatively meager education, so neither an aristocrat nor a priest, nor a high functionary of the Serenissima, nor a man of law, nor a physician, nor a writer. But probably a merchant or a specialized artisan. A middle-class man with primary education. The formula ” Ego Ioannes iuro in ordine meo quod tota huius artist… “. Ioannes declare with an oath that all the alchemical art is within the Sun, the Moon, and Mercury…” is certainly not an elegant, but rather a popular terminology. Being Venetian, I can state it is still very common among poorly educated people today. So he was not an eyebrow but not a skilled lab technician either. I can say from experience they expressed themselves differently. Neither a particularly technical man nor a poet. But with stunning artistic talent. A man who can illustrate like that could have painted Giovanni Bellini’s Holy Allegory. And only a stubborn ideological willing could repudiate the hypothesis.
But suppose we try to return to Venice of the fifteenth century with our imagination. In that case, we could observe the town described by Solomon Trismosin as the starting point of an alchemical tour that could bring the most intrepid minds to the Greek islands and the Middle East. Manutius, Bessarion, Gemistus Pletho, etc., chose Venice. Not to mention the learned aristocracy: Bembo, Barbaro, Barbarigo, and Contarini, were just some of the best-known patrons. A town where the hermetic academies were not particularly hidden – arrests and persecutions started only in the second half of the sixteenth century. Of Venice, it is enough to remember the proximity to Byzantium, where the smallest detail was made astonishingly. But the golden age of Venetian cultural patronage lasted only for a couple of generations: first, in Marco Polo’s time, they were too busy making money, then they suddenly found themselves in poverty. No wonder Pietro Bembo’s son was shamefully forced to parcel and sell his father’s enormous collections.
A trained eye can discern an impressive amount of alchemical and hermetic symbolism in Giovanni Bellini’s paintings. His Holy Allegory would be enough, but it didn’t remain a single, extravagant case; in fact, Bellini is known to have attended the most learned and scholarly persons; Finally, and not a negligible detail, he used to sign his works as Ioannes Bellinus.
Tiny ingredients the historians of Alchemy have left behind and used as they are to the poetic tradition that presents the painters interested in Alchemy and Hermeticism as cursed and outcasts. But they ignored that Alchemy and Hermeticism were the cultures of the cultivated Renaissance age classes. A culture to be hidden, anyway; in fact, the manuscript’s author preferred not to reveal his last name. Ioannes was enough. The historians of Alchemy should instead tell us why Johannes von Teschen-Ticinensis would have been so cautious about omitting his last name in Ashburnham 1166. Nobody would have ever heard of him if he did the same in all his alchemical works.
The first part of translating the Latin verses accompanying each image can be found in Codex Laur. MS Ashburnham 1166 and the Acrostic I.A.A.T.
The 33 images reproduced in Fonti Storiche dell’Alchimia, personally photographed by Carbonelli’s brother, were then reduced to the state of the 1925 print. They are 33, enumerated in folio (recto, verso) and uploaded below. Carbonelli mixes up the first recto and verso and lists two images with the same 4r. I rearranged following the burn marks: the burn on the right means recto, and the left verso.