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Sergei Zotov

I completed my BA in German Philology (Saratov State University) under the supervision of Prof. Vadim Mikhailin, and I obtained my MA in Cultural Studies (RSUH, Moscow) co-supervised by Prof. Vyacheslav Ivanov and Dr. Irina Protopopova. In 2017-2021 I worked at the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel in a project on alchemical images in the early modern period led by PD Dr. Stefan Laube, as well as in a project by Gia Toussaint on medieval book history. Currently, I am a Ph.D. candidate at the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance, co-supervised by Prof. Ingrid De Smet and Dr. Michael Bycroft.

My PhD thesis‚ 'Alchemical Iconography as a Mediator of Knowledge: Visualising Science in European Alchemical Manuscripts of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries' focuses on the analysis and conceptualization of alchemical scientific schemes and allegorical images from European, mainly German and English treatises, such as 15th c. Ripley’s Scroll, Buch der Heiligen Dreifaltigkeit, Aurora consurgens, Donum dei, and 16th c. Splendor solis, Rosarium philosophorum, Book of Lamspring, Crowning of Nature, and many others.

The goals of my research are as follows:

-to study both alchemical and non-alchemical sources of iconography from various copies of English and German illustrated manuscripts. It would be possible to include the alchemical illustration into the broader context of the scientific illustration and trace its evolution.

-to determine influences of science and art on alchemical images, as well as to specify areas of knowledge illustrated in alchemical treatises. Besides chemistry it might be philosophy, philology, history, theology, optics, meteorology, botany, etc.

-to research the exchange of alchemical iconography throughout Europe, mainly between England and Germany.

- to analyze the reception of alchemical imagery in European visual and written cultures up to the end of the 17th c.

The results would be of interest to historians of early modern science and to Renaissance art historians, due to special nature of the alchemical illustration, that could be both schematic or allegoric, and its strong connection with scientific progress in terms of natural philosophy, chemistry, and medicine.


Allegorical Iconography of Alchemical Furnaces in 16th and 17th Century Manuscripts, in: Proceedings of the International symposium “Alchemical Laboratories. Practices, texts, material relics”, February 19-21 2020 in Vienna and Oberstockstall. Vienna: Leykam, 2023 (in press).

Merian’s Juggling with Motifs / Juggling with Merian’s Motifs: Iconographical Borrowings in and from Merian’s Alchemical Works, in: Weltlandschaften, Magier und der Stein der Weisen – Die Bilderfindungen des Kupferstechers Matthäus Merian d.Ä. für „Alchemica illustrata“, Sammelband zum gleichnamigen Workshop (Februar 2020), Frankfurt, 2023 (in press).

Vial Movies – The Driving Forces of Nature and Their Visualization in: Nuncius. Journal of the Material and Visual History of Science 37 (2022), pp. 1-41 (co-authored by Stefan Laube).

Pagan Otherness in the Christian Church Iconography of Ancient Philosophers and Intellectuals in Russia and the Balkans, in: IKON. Journal of Iconographic Studies, volume 15, 2022, pp. 95-100.

Destillation und polare Vereinigung. Zur visuellen Übersetzung alchemischer Praktiken auf Titelbildern und Frontispizen, in: Petra Feuerstein-Herz, Ute Frietsch (hrsg.). Alchemie – Genealogie und Terminologie, Bilder, Techniken und Artefakte (Wolfenbütteler Forschungen 166), Wolfenbüttel: Herzog August Bibliothek, 2021, pp. 191-235 (co-authored by Stefan Laube).

Performative Bildstrategien für Alchemica illustrata // Berit Wagner, ed, Matthäus Merian d.Ä. und die Bebilderung der Alchemie um 1600 – Ausstellung in sieben Räumen (2021). Url:

Transformation Atalanta fugiens in illuminiertes Buch // Berit Wagner, ed, Matthäus Merian d.Ä. und die Bebilderung der Alchemie um 1600 – Ausstellung in sieben Räumen (2021). Url: 

Alchemy and University – Alchemie und Universität. Conference report // H/Soz/Kult. Url: 

Sermons, Alchemy, and the Three-Handed Jesus: The Iconography of the Peter and Paul Cathedral Pulpit in the Context of Stephan Yavorsky’s and Theophan Prokopovich’s Preaching, in: Timothy Johnson, Katherine Shelby, John Young (eds), Preaching and New Worlds: Sermons as Mirrors of Realms Near and Far. Routledge Studies in Medieval Religion and Culture, 2018.


Wax Legs and Iron Eyes. Votive Practices from the Middle Ages to the Present Day. Moscow: SLOVO, 2023 (in Russian; co-authored by Mikhail Maizuls, and Dmitry Antonov). On-line excerpt here.

Medieval Magic. Visual history of Witches and Sorcerers. Moscow: AST, 2022 (in Russian; co-authored by Dilshat Kharman). On-line excerpt hereLink opens in a new window.

‘Iconographical Mayhem. The Unusual in the Orthodox Icon’. Moscow: Bombora, 2021 (in Russian). On-line excerpt hereLink opens in a new window.

‘History of Alchemy. The Journey of the Philosopher's Stone from the Bronze Age to the Atomic One’. Moscow: AST, 2020 (in Russian). On-line excerpt hereLink opens in a new window.

‘Suffering in the Middle Ages: Paradoxes of Christian Iconography’. Moscow: AST, 2018 ( in Russian; сo-authored by Mikhail Maizuls and Dilshat Kharman). On-line excerpt hereLink opens in a new window.

Honours and Awards

  • 2022 Russian ‘Alexander Belyaev Prize’ for the best non-fictional book of the year
  • 2018 Russian ‘Enlightener prize’ for the best non-fictional book in Humanities


Member of the Renaissance Society of America (RSA)
Member of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry (SHAC)

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