I'm in search for Ouroboros pictures in 15th century. Are there others than "alchemistcal contexts" in which the figure appeared?


Huck said:
I'm in search for Ouroboros pictures in 15th century. Are there others than "alchemistcal contexts" in which the figure appeared?

Huck, thank you for proposing this interesting ichonographic subject.

The Ouroboros was an attribute of god Saturn (being both related to time).

Here you see a fresco in Angera (near Milan) where Saturn holds an Ouroboros in his left hand (I am sorry I could not find a better image). This image is one of a cycle in which planets are associated to astrological signs.
This fresco was painted at the beginning of the XIV century (1315 ca). Is the 14th century relevant for your search?

A XV Century Saturn holding his ouroboros can also be seen in the so-called Mantegna tarot.

I like the subject, and I hope to find more images, possibly from illuminated manuscript and from the century you are interested in.



An interesting observation, indeed.

In Milan with its "viper eating a human" as heraldic device the ouroboros is of course interesting ...

In the Mantegna-Tarocchi, the "dragon = snake" is used at

32 Chronico - in ouroborus-form ("in the right hand")
22 Loica (Logic) - "hidden dragon" ("in the left hand")
48 Saturno - in ouroboros-form as you suggested ("in the right hand")
42 Mercuy - as caduceus
35 Prudentia - as bottom figure

(offers all pictures)

Our interest is to observe the whole development of the figure, of specific interest is also the French development.


A few images

This site has a number of (recent?) ouroboros amulets:

I could only find a few XVI Century images. So I am not sure they are relevant for you:

1) Giorgio Vasari "First Fruits of the Earth Offered to Saturn"
This is a sketch for a fresco that can still be seen in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. I could not find images of the fresco, but this drawing is also beautiful.

2) Alciato / Alciati's Emblem 133
Triton, the trumpeter of Neptune, is enclosed in the middle of a circle of a snake, who seizes his tail in his mouth with his teeth.
The same site presents another later emblem by Wither (AD 1635):

3) The "trademark" of printer Francesco Bindoni Jr (AD 1562)

These are more emblems of unknown source (XVII Century?):

Fato prudentia major "Prudence is greater than Fate"

Cum Patientia "With patience"

What's this?




I'd success with some books, but all findings more or less were alchemistic connected. Another possibility is the "Time"-interpretation in connection to Kronos=Chronos=Saturn.
As these 16th century pictures are too late, it stays, that ouroborus in the beginning meant "Time", but was used by (later ?) alchemy intensively. An older connection might be the Oceanos, surrounding earth .. likely the shown Triton-connection comes from this way.


ancient origin of Ouroboros as Eternity

Erwin Panofsky suggests Boccaccio as the first "scientific" source about the Roman Gods.
Boccaccio in his Genealogia Deorum Gentilium quotes Claudius Claudianus as a source about Demogorgon and Eternity. Claudianus died at the biginning of the Vth century (404 ca).
In the Second book of his "DE CONSVLATV STILICHONIS" Claudianus writes:

Claudius Claudianus said:
Far away, all unknown, beyond the range of mortal minds, scarce to be approached by the gods, is a cavern of immense age, hoary mother of the years, her vast breast at once the cradle and the tomb of time. A serpent surrounds this cave, engulfing everything with slow but all-devouring jaws; never ceases the glint of his green scales. His mouth devours the back-bending tail as with silent movement he traces his own beginning.
Before the entrance sits Nature, guardian of the threshold, of age immense yet ever lovely, around whom throng and flit spirits on every side. A venerable old man writes down immutable laws: he fixes the number of stars in each constellation and causes these to move and those to be at rest, whereby everything lives or dies by pre-ordained laws. 'Tis he decides Mars' uncertain orbit, Jupiter's fixed course through the heaven, the swift path of the moon, and the slow march of Saturn; he limits the wanderings of Venus' bright chariot and of Mercury, Phoebus' companion.

A note in this page says that:
Eternity, in the sense of endless time, was pictured by the Egyptians as a snake devouring its own tail; cf. Plut. De Is. et Osir. i.2, p5.

The latin original is:
                Est ignota procul nostraeque inpervia genti,
          425   vix adeunda deis, annorum squalida mater,
                inmensi spelunca aevi, quae tempora vasto
                suppeditat revocatque sinu. Conplectitur antrum,
                omnia qui placido consumit numine, serpens
                perpetuumque viret squamis caudamque reductam
          430   ore vorat tacito relegens exordia lapsu.
                Vestibuli custos vultu longaeva decoro
                ante fores Natura sedet, cunctisque volantes
                dependent membris animae. Mansura verendus
                scribit iura senex, numeros qui dividit astris
          435   et cursus stabilesque moras, quibus omnia vivunt
                ac pereunt fixis cum legibus. Ille recenset
                incertum quod Martis iter certumque Tonantis
                prospiciat mundo; quid velox semita Lunae
                pigraque Saturni; quantum Cytherea sereno
          440   curriculo Phoebique comes Cyllenius erret.


Ouroboros : circled dragon of the Emperor and Empress

Huck said:

I'm in search for Ouroboros pictures in 15th century. Are there others than "alchemistcal contexts" in which the figure appeared?

Hi Huck

I discover this thread.

Along with my actual research specific of the historical supposed identitity of the 4 Rulers : Empress Emperor Papessa Pope in the 3 remaining decks (VS, Cary Yale and Brera) [see numerous unanswered posts on LTarot], I comme to you with the Circled Dragon of the Order of the Dragon of Sigismund of Luxembourg and Barbara of Cilly...

Ourouboros : circular dragon with red cross


The Emperor and Empress of the Cary yale and Brera decks , king and queen of Lombardy (Milan 1431) also journeyed to Rome, in order to become crowned Holy Roman Emperor and Empress in 1433 by Pope Eugenius IV (St Peter Rome). The incumbent Pope also officially approved the statutes of the Dragon Order while Sigismund was visiting Rome in 1433.

The King Sigismund of Luxembourg and his wife Barbara von Cilli jointly inaugurated the modern Order of the Dragon on December 12 or 13, 1408 soon after their marriage. The Dragon Order already had a long history. No one seems to know the exact origins and meanings of the dragon symbol. Nor is there any agreement among scholars. A common symbol for eternity, according to some scholars, is the dragon devouring its own tail in a pattern of the oriental notion of eternal return. Nothing really dies, but just comes back in another form.
The main point of interest in the founding of the modern Dragon Order is that it was highly unusual at that time to have a woman as co-founder of any Order. This is a testimony to the power and prestige of Countess Barbara von Cilli. Also unusual is that she personally took an active part in the ceremonies and meetings of the Order. Her marriage to Sigismund cemented the pact between himself and Count Herman II von Cilli, who had a legitimate claim to the throne of Bosnia through his mother.
The Inner Dragon Court, called “Sarkany Rend” in Hungarian, was and still is restricted to twenty four nobles. However, the exterior court was (and is) open to all nobles, who can demonstrate four years of service to the needy. The entire Order was called “Drachenorden” in German and “Societatis Draconistarum” in Latin. From the Latin is derived the word “Draconis” meaning “the dragon.” The main purpose of the original Order, according to the document drawn up by Sigismund and signed by twenty one barons and other nobles of his court in 1408, was to secure his position as King of Hungary (“Sigismundus dei gratia rex Hungariae”) and to reward those loyal to him. Those accepted into the Order in a solemn ceremony swore to protect Sigismund and his family. Members of the Order also pledged to combat heretics and Islam, and to defend each other against aggression.
As a reward for their allegiance to Sigismund the nobles were also asked to “wear and bear the sign or image of the dragon curled up in the form of a circle” resting on a red cross. The red cross came from the Order of St. George, as stated in the documents, “just in the same way that those who fight under the banner of the glorious martyr St. George are accustomed to wear a red cross on a white field” (“The Dragon Sovereignty”


The founding document of 'Szigmondus dei rex Hungaraie' confirmed that members of the Court might wear the insignia of a dragon incurved into a circle, with a red cross

The Order of the Dragon (Lat: Societatis draconistrarum) was an institution similar to other chivalric orders of the time, modeled on the Order of St. George (1318). It was created in 1408 by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund (then the king of Hungary). According to its statute, which survives in a copy dated 1707, the Order required its initiates to defend the Cross and fight its enemies, principally the Turks. The original Order had twenty four members of the nobility, including such notable figures as:
· Sigismund of Luxembourg, King of Hungary, Emperor of Holy Roman Empire (after 1410)
· Despot Stefan Lazarevic of Serbia
· King Alfonso V of Aragon and Naples
· King Vladislav Jagello of Poland
· Grand Prince Vitovd of Lithuania
· Duke Ernst of Austria
· Christopher III, Duke of Bavaria and King of Denmark
· Thomas de Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk (after 1439)
· Vlad Tsepesh, Duke of Wallachia (after 1431)

The Order of the Dragon adopted as its symbol in 1408 the image of a circular dragon with its tail coiled around its neck. On its back, from the base of its neck to its tail, was the red cross of St George on the background of a silver field. With the expansion of the Order, other symbols were adopted, all variations on the theme of dragon and cross. For example, one class of the Order used a dragon being strangled with a cross draped across its back; another presents a cross perpendicular to a coiled-up dragon with an inscription:
"O quam misericors est Deus" (Oh, how merciful God is)
and "Justus et paciens" (Justifiably and peacefully)

Alain Bougearel


Dragon-Snake : Milano (1431) / Roma 1433

Huck wrote :

An interesting observation, indeed.

In Milan with its "viper eating a human" as heraldic device the ouroboros is of course interesting ...


Dragon-Snake of Sigismund of Luxembourg and Barbara of Cilly

It is in St Peter of Rome that the order of the Dragon is approved by Pope Eugene IV in 1433 date of the crowing of the King and Queen of Lombarby (crowned King and Queen in 1431 in the Cathedral of St Ambroise of Milano)as Emperor and Empress.

Symbol of the Order

Insignia of the order
For their symbol, the Order designed an insignia of a dragon with its tail coiled around its neck. On the back of the dragon from the base of the neck to the tail is the red cross of St. George, with the entire image on a silver field. The dragon represented the Beast of the Book of Revelation while the red cross represented the victory of Christ over the forces of evil. Members were required to wear the symbol (often as a medallion) at all times and were often buried with the symbol.
Growth of the Order
In 1431, Sigismund chose to expand the ranks of the Order. To achieve this, he invited a number of politically influential and militarily useful vassals and nobles for indoctrination into the Order. Included in this ceremony was Vlad II Dracul, father of Vlad Ţepeş, who was serving as frontier commander guarding the passes from Transylvania to Wallachia. (The post-title "Dracul" refers to being invested with the Order of the Dragon.)
The addition of new members caused the creation of many classes within the Order. Each class had a slight variation on the symbol of the order, although the dragon motif was dominant in each variation. Common changes included the addition of inscriptions like "O quam misericors est Deus" ("Oh, how merciful God is") and "Justus et paciens" ("Justifiably and peacefully"). The order remained prominent until the death of Sigismund in 1437. Without a strong sponsor, the Order quickly lost influence and prestige.



Our interest is to observe the whole development of the figure, of specific interest is also the French development.[/QUOTE]


I was looking for something else and came across - 15th century woodcuts at the British museum (no titles/artists names). Oceanus the god depicted (like titian) with a sea serpent eating its tail depicting the mystical river that circles the world (oroborus) also in an art History book the Greek sage Epicurus wrote "The all was from the beginning like an egg, with the serpent as the tight band or circle around it" and was depicted in 'Epicurean art' No paintings about the Art was in the book though. (a little help is almost no help!! :D ) plus apparently the snake eating itself was thought to be a depiction of the Milky Way ~Rosanne

John Meador

Ouroboros as synchronicity

Periphereia = "The beginning and end join on the circumference of the circle."
-Heraclitus of Ephesos (535-475 BCE)

Huck, you may be amused to hear that shortly before your thread first appeared here, I had recently completed the book detailing a tale of my Tarot trumps in which the Ouroboros maintains the pivotal role of the story. The book does not document the historical Tarot, but rather creates a Tarot myth embellished from myth and history. I have not sought a publisher yet.

Anyhow, re: Saturn (ate his offspring, Wyrm eats its tail)


Iliad book XIV
"... going to the
world's end to visit Oceanus (from whom all we gods proceed) ..."

re: Order of the Dragon:
"...the Serbian heroes who owe their immense physical and spiritual strength to the mythic beings they originate from. Miloš Obilic4, in the poem "Obilic Dragon's Son", is presented as a son of a dragon.This is where the secret of his and the Serbian heroism in general lies. The descendents ofa dragon were also Marko Kraljevic, Relja Krilatica, Ljutica Bogdan, Banovic Strahinja, Zmaj -despot Vuk, Banovic Sekula, Visoki Stefan, Sibinjanin Janko, Jankovic Stojan5."

"Serbian folk believed that the Balkans were inhabited by different half- gods or demons: dragons, fairies, vampires, witches. The greatest heroes of the Serbian folk tradition were born out of the union of dragons with mortal women, or fairies with mortal men. The dragons protect people, defend the faith, care about fertility, and keep off demons that carry on disease."