Salvador Dalí

Alchimie des Philosophes – L’Ouroboros (The Ouroboros)

c1975
lithograph on parchment
Inventory number 843
Alchemy is an ancient philosophical tradition, associated with purification. It is believed that alchemists sought to purify base materials into gold whilst practicing spiritual exercises to purify the human soul to reach perfection. 

Dalí created 275 copies of the artist book Alchimie des Philosophes, each containing 10 artworks representing distinct alchemical themes.

The Ouroboros is a serpent that is circular and eats its own tail. Due to the spherical nature of the symbol, it represents the circular nature of the alchemy process. The orbital motion also represents eternity. Dalí was obsessed with the idea of time, hence the notion of eternity. Dalí’s serpent is cut into pieces, but the head remains attached to the tail. The segregation of the serpent pieces poses the question, is achieving eternity possible or does life interrupt the likelihood?