Masters and Disciples

The first panel of the Scroll presents alchemy as both philosophical and practical tradition, and introduces us to the many layers of alchemical imagery. Within the flask, the prime matter — represented as a toad — hangs poised among drops of blood and flying feathers.

Despite its origins in Greco-Roman Egypt, alchemy was still a novelty in 12th-century Europe, known primarily from Latin translations of Arabic texts. Practitioners struggled to establish its prestige as a legitimate branch of learned knowledge, rather than a manual craft. One solution was to invoke the authority of ancient adepts, from the legendary Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus to ancient philosophers and biblical figures. Such ancient lineages reinforced the idea of alchemy as secret knowledge, passed from master to disciple.