The paintings by the Italian artist Federico Zuccari particularin the study of Cardinal Alessandro Farnesio, in his palace of Caprarola, shape an alchemical room.
This area is located in the wing’s of his summer palace, behind the Solitudine room, for the meditation. One of the paintings of this so-called “Gabinetto dell’Hermatena”, depicts a naked man, bearded and with wings on his head, holding a strange symbol on the right hand, and an sphere in the left. The symbol on the right is nothing but the fusion of various alchemical emblems, “lead, tin, silver, copper, mercury, sulfur and vitriol”, as Stephen Lorente says in his “Tractatus Iconographicus”. This naked man is therefore an allegory of the Great Work. (66)
The site also has another painting on the ceiling, which represents a no less strange figure, known as Hermathena, which is a fusion of Hermes and Athena and sometimes has a hermetic meaning, as well as philosophical. It is, therefore, an androgynous symbol of the “culmination of the Great Work.”
We have here, therefore, evidence of the character of Cardinal Farnese, senior member of the church, as skilled alchemist. An example of this is that it was the cardinal himself who led the preparation and designs that were painted in this room.
– Brother Maxi.