Cover for the album Homunculus by Gothic Scream Metal band Impoli, featuring Ilona Bathory, princess of Bistrița-Năsăud and amateur geneticist.

Cover for the album Homunculus by Gothic Scream Metal band Impoli, featuring Ilona Bathory, princess of Bistrița-Năsăud and amateur geneticist.

Pen and marker on card

A4

Marker on MDF.

Height-43.5cm

Width-28cm

Featured in 'Full Circle' Anniversary group show.

 

Back in the good old days of alchemy, when you could get some really wacky ideas out of proto-scientist who had been playing with mercury for too long, there was an idea called preformationism. This was the that organisms develop from miniature versions of themselves. So a sperm contained a little person, who grew during pregnancy into a bigger person. Now, you may laugh, but bear in mind that this idea stick around until at least the 19th century. And compared to other ideas that proto-scientist came up with, it’s not the maddest by any stretch. Now, these little persons were called homunculi (singular homunculus).

Apparently the term homunculus was first mentioned by an alchemist called Paracelsus, who in De natura rerum (1537) outlines his method for creating homunculi:

“That the sperm of a man be putrefied by itself in a sealed cucurbit for forty days with the highest degree of putrefaction in a horse’s womb, or at least so long that it comes to life and moves itself, and stirs, which is easily observed. After this time, it will look somewhat like a man, but transparent, without a body. If, after this, it be fed wisely with the Arcanum of human blood, and be nourished for up to forty weeks, and be kept in the even heat of the horse’s womb, a living human child grows therefrom, with all its members like another child, which is born of a woman, but much smaller.”

These creatures went on to become a source of inspiration for folklorists and fiction writers, and the word is used in modern psychology (though not to mean little people in sperm). Goethe’s Faust contains one, although I prefer the seven that appear in Fullmetal Alchemist

Oh, and Impoli means rude in French...

 

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