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Article “Decoding the fronstispiece of the Encyclopédie
ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers”

Drawn by Charles-Nicolas Cochin and engraved by Bonaventure-Louis Prévost in 1772
the fronstispiece speaks volumes to the mindful observer.

 

FROM DARKNESS TO LIGHT

 

The MASS offers a Pot of Incense or similar sacrificial offering.

The MASS looks upwards (towards the light) but is shrouded in Darkness.

One among them clenches a Scroll (under his right arm).

Another one (far right end) starts out to leave the procession, beginning to grasp Technology / Machinery.

AGRICULTURE (POLYHYMNIA) introduces the plough for cultivation. AGICULTURE looks at FLORA.

FLORA takes the plant from its natural environment for breeding and culture. FLORA looks at AGRICULTURE.

ALCHEMIA works with the natural using the Alambik. ALCHEMIA is the Mother of SCIENCE. ALCHEMIA looks at FLORA.

SCIENCE investigates, analyses and explores the findings of ALCHEMIA. SCIENCE is the Daughter of ALCHEMIA.

STONEMASONRY uses Tools forming Humans.

FINE ART is flanked by STONEMASONRY and FREEMASONRY.

FREEMASONRY uses Tools forming Humans.

MUSIC always close to the Royal Arts.

ASTRONOMY using Sun, Moon and Stars to navigate and measure.

FAUNA takes the animal from its natural environment for breeding and culture. FAUNA looks at GEOMETRY.

GEOMETRY studies the Pythagorean Theorem.

ART OF WAR (Diana)

RESOLUTION The dagger in her right hand indicates she does not carry a Holy Grail but a Cup of Hemlock.

HERDWOMAN/SHEPERDESS reminds us of Pan. MUSIC and PLAY (Melponene, Thalia) close by.

REAPER. SCRIBE (Klio, Kalliope, Polymatheia). ARCHEOLOGY carries the Sphinx. DEMETER.

SOPHIA (who allegorises the veiled ISIS) withdraws from MONARCHY (standing lower).

SOPHIA looks at The CIVIL CITIZEN.

MONARCHY (crowned head) tries to impose harness onto SOPHIA in order to restrain her (using both hands).

MONARCHY looks at SOPHIA (meaning it does not look after the CIVIL CITIZEN).

ENLIGHTENMENT (torch of Enlightenment) holds on to SOPHIA (with her right hand).

ENLIGHTENMENT gives encouragement to CIVIL CITIZEN (with her left hand).

ENLIGHTENMENT looks at The CIVIL CITIZEN.

The CILVIL CITIZEN reaches out to SOPHA (with her right hand).

The CIVIL CITIZEN loosens her grip of the Holy Scripture (BIBLIA), letting it slip (from her left hand).

The CIVIL looks at SOPHIA.

 

This article has been fist published 18 FEB 2104 by Christopher Sicurella.