The Raven's Chamber: a mad scientist's apparatus


Art Donovan (previously) created this amazing, mixed-media sculpture as a commission, called The Raven's Chamber, resembling some arcane astronomical instrument from a mad alchemist's lab.

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  1. So the artist stuck a raven on a writing desk?

    Nice.

    I think it looks like a steampunk interocitor though.

  2. I am in full agreement on the arcane potential of actual hardware (a nice mercury arc rectifier is functional and looks like something intended to be placed where the fabric of the world is weakest for some dark and terrible purpose).

    That said, I suspect that the piece above is partly aimed at evoking the appearance of lab equipment that would have been deemed 'functional' under a substantially different set of presumed physical laws.

    As it happens, Team Alchemy was sufficiently wrong about the world that they only got results when they stumbled into what is now chemistry; but they definitely weren't proto-chemists. Vitalism, sympathetic magic, astrology, and assorted hermetic oddities were all definitely on the table. All dead ends; but all theories that would include some...very curious...objects within the bounds of 'functional lab equipment'.

    For pure functional retrotech, I'd favor the various beautifully fabricated brass mechanical devices (astrolabes, armillary spheres, ball and disk integrators, etc.); but had Athanasius Kircher been correct in his theories, I'd probably get to choose rather differently...

  3. Hello, Fuzzy Fungus, Thank you. I enjoyed your comment. Accurate and thoughtful points. Particularly your mention of Kircher, as you had noticed his astrological map that I painted on my piece.

  4. Don't get my grumbling wrong, the thing is pretty. smiley
    I just have a little different ideas about what counts as a "mad scientist's apparatus" stuck_out_tongue
    (Make it "mad alchemist's" and we're on the same wave.)

  5. Given the (arguably understandable) fascination among alchemists with the fact that mercury, that crazy stuff that looks like liquid silver and weighs more than any decent substance should, can dissolve gold, that noble metal that resists most other forms of attack, and then turn back into gold when you boil the mercury off, I suspect that mad alchemists were not in terribly short supply.

    (That said, this technique can be used for mercury gilding, which produces excellent results if you are risk-insensitive enough to try.)

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