• Alexandra

Mercury: a metal that's almost animate

QUI SCIT COMBURERE AQUA ET LAVARE IGNE FACIT DE TERRA CAELUM ET DE CAELO TERRAM PRETIOSAM

He who knows how to burn with water and wash with fire makes out of the earth heaven and out of the heaven precious earth


So is inscribed above the Porta Magica, now in gardens of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II, Rome. It was erected some time between 1655 and1680, and is associated with Christina of Sweden's residence in Rome after her abdication. The alchemical phrases relate to 'Jason' (representing the alchemist) undertaking the 'noble work'. However 'Jason" can also refer to the metal mercury, which is the agent of change for so many metals, being - as a liquid - imbued with some life force. The notion that inanimate liquids are more nearly animate than solids resonates with the artistic aesthetic. In this regard, the ability of mercury to amalgamate with other metals and change their nature can be construed as mercury passing on that small element of the life force it possesses, thereby changing the nature of the metal it is mixed with.


If one was, as a very first step, seeking to simulate life in a metal, it would seem that the use of mercury in a series of chemical processes might be a good starting point.


More baffling is SI SEDES NON IS (If you don't sit you go), which read in reverse means if you don't go, you sit). No shit Sherlock :D