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Mozart's The Magic Flute

(Die Zauberflöte)


Illustrations in the Original 1791 Libretto

 

The Frontispiece

The illustration to the right is a reproduction of the frontispiece from the original Libretto of Die Zauberflöte.  It was engraved and printed by one of Mozart's fellow Masons in the Lodge Zur gekrönten Hoffung, Ignaz Alberti, in Vienna in 1791.  This frontispiece was so rich in esoteric symbolism that it was eliminated from all later editions of the libretto.

At first glance, to the uninitiated, the picture seems to depict some sort of a Middle Eastern archaeological dig.  However, to a knowledgeable Mason and/or Rosicrucian the following could be noted:

The center of the engraving shows a large stone double arch, the central pillar of which contains a series of bas reliefs or friezes of a totally obscure nature. The lowermost frieze may contain the symbol for the Gnostic God Abraxis. Hanging from the arch in the upper center of the engraving is a chain with a five-pointed star attached to the end of it. The center of the star contains a niche from which a flame sprouts. Apparently, this flame is the sole source of illumination for the entire scene! This shining star reminds me of the most famous and mystical verse in the entire Koran known as Al Nur (Surah 24, Verse 35)! In the center foreground is the body of a living man or a perhaps a corpse. Living or not, the man is staring directly at the flaming star!  Behind the arch is a brick structure which some sources believe may be a temple of initiation. Just above the frame of the doorway to this building is a large cross with equal sides.  Some people consider this building to be an alchemist's laboratory complete with an oven or furnace. If so the cross could represent the four elements. I personally have no idea what this building is supposed to represent.

The left side of the engraving shows part of a fully illuminated pyramid on which is carved eight identifiable symbols.  Six of the symbols seem to be associated with all of the seven planets known to the ancients:  Venus in conjunction with the Sun (topmost symbol), Mercury (lower left of the Bull's head), Jupiter (lower right of the Bull), Mars (upper right of the Bull), Saturn by the two crossed snakes on the lower left, and the Moon on the right side of the Ibis bird.  The Bull's head is the astrological sign for Taurus and the Ibis bird shown with a snake in its mouth symbolizes the alchemical process of putrefaction. Taken altogether, these eight symbols suggest an astrological date (when Venus in conjunction with the Sun is in the constellation of Taurus and the Moon is full) during which the alchemical process of putrefaction is to take place.  The date for this process to commence appears to be early in the month of May!

The right side of the engraving shows a large porcelain vase standing on a pedestal. The very top of the vase shows a pair of copulating dogs!  Just below the dogs are several pairs of intertwined (copulating?) snakes. The middle part of the vase shows a series of encircled animal heads which may represent faces of demons or of death.  On the pedestal are two squatting figures with apelike bodies and human heads attached by chains to the lower part of the vase. These creatures probably represent alchemists as they are people who seek to imitate or "ape" the natural world.  Also, the posture of these creatures seems reminiscent of the Gargoyles who guarded the Medieval Gothic Cathedrals.

In the lower right foreground is a cave or tomb which appears to have been just excavated.  At the mouth of the cave is a trowel and a compass (common signs of Freemasonry). At the extreme right is a large hourglass. To the left of the hourglass is what appears to be a large pitcher with a handle. In front of the cave opening, in the center and left foreground, are what appear to be (from right to left) a broken stone seal that once closed the entrance to the cave or tomb, and two fragments of stone pillars.  In the center foreground, resting up against the earth that has been excavated from the cave is the figure of the man previously mentioned above as staring intently at the five pointed, flaming star.  His may be the body which has just been removed from the grave.  It is unclear as to whether he is alive or dead.  However, it is probable that he represents the alchemical adept who just has been resurrected or reborn.

 

 

 

 

 


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