Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Kevin L. Cope


This work re-interprets the symbolism of the emblematic "Rainbow" portrait (c. 1600) of Elizabeth I. The traditional title comes from the identification of the rainbow in the portrait as that of Genesis 9:13. In fact, this work demonstrates, it is the philosophers' rainbow, a cryptonym for the colors--black, red, white--of the three stages of alchemic transmutation: purification, illumination, perfection. Elizabeth is represented as the Faery Queen, the alchemical monarch--historically the pre-Homeric Hecate--who transmutes not only the brazen world of her subjects but their brassy selves as well. In the text the portrait is therefore designated the "Alchemists' Rainbow" portrait, the AR portrait for convenience. The historical phenomena investigated have suffered cultural amnesia. The most important is a form of Renaissance Platonism hitherto not identified. Neoplatonism occurs in two forms. One is Eratoplatonism focused on love; the other, here called Geoplatonism, is focused on a knowledge or gnosis. The vector of Geoplatonism is Proclus although elements go back to Hesiod and Plato. Central is the function of imagination, the nexus between no-thing and some-thing as is the point in geometry which is location without dimension. The AR portrait is a talismanic emblem meant to function in the world of Elizabeth as does the point in the world of geometry. This hermeneutics is designated copious eclecticism.