The Apothecary's Chest Magic, Art and Medication Symposium 2007
The notable alchemists George Ripley, pseudo-Llull and Paracelsus all use the metaphor of pregnancy as indication of the growth of the Philosopher’s Stone in the alembic vessel.20 Paracelsus states that: “As soon as you see the woman take a black colour, know for a certainty that she has conceived and become pregnant”.21 Therefore, perhaps Loplop’s placement here could be interpreted as his intention to remove the foetus to rear in the vessel over the fire next to the woman, or else to remove even the womb itself to appropriate this process for himself.
This section of the novel is given the subtitle “blackness”, which would certainly match with the colour of the alchemical matter associated with pregnancy, as indicated by Paracelsus’ words.
Man’s ability to carry a child is a concept that has a precedent in alchemy. In Michael Maier’s Atalanta fugiens of 1617, and of which it is possible to argue that the Surrealists knew, the figure of the wind carries a child in his belly, and similarly in the writings of pseudo-Llull and Nicholas Flamel, whom the Surrealists also knew of, man is credited with the ability to carry a child: “this is the female which he carries in his belly”.22
Thus it may be argued that this image of Loplop may be a depiction of the male Surrealist’s appropriation of specifically female powers through his identification with the alchemist.