Dangerous curiosity

In his explanation of the proverb Quae supra nos nihil ad nos (The things that are above us are nothing to us) Erasmus tells us that this is the Latin translation of a remark of Socrates - Τὰ ὑπὲρ ἡμᾶς, οὐδὲν πρὸς ἡμᾶς - which 'discourages us from restless enquiry into heavenly things and the secrets of nature'.

Hundreds of documents repeat the warning of Socrates in a rich variety of ways. They may express the theme through classical myths about human hybris and curiosity such as those about Prometheus, Icarus, Phaëthon, Tantalus, and Pandora's box.
Christian dogma about the Tree of Knowledge is of course expressed in many hundreds of paintings and prints of man's Temptation and Fall.
Alchemy, either illustrated by alchemists at work, or by a richer variety of scenes of alchemy, and astrology are also often found in the collections harvested for Arkyves.

Should you be interested in the visualisation of science in a more general sense you could also compose quite a sophisticated query that finds you illustrations of many of its aspects but excludes documents specifically catalogued as illustrations of alchemy. Note that you can scan the selected pictures more quickly by clicking the images only button.

Prometheus wordt door de adelaar de lever uitgepikt

Colijns, David

De val van Icarus; reliëf boven de deur van de Desolate Boedelkamer in het Stadhuis van Amsterdam

naar beeld van: Quellinus, Artus

Pandora opens her box, Cupid sleeping at her feet

Adam en Eva

vermeld op object prentmaker: Dürer, Albrecht

De val van Phaëthon ()

schrijver: Posthius, Johannes

Tantalus is standing in a stream, unable to reach the apples above him or the water below

De dwerg Blasius Rauchmantl als alchemist, ca. 1710 ()

toegeschreven aan prentmaker: Engelbrecht, Martin

Astrologia (titel op object)

naar eigen ontwerp van: Pencz, Georg

Porphyrius and Plotinus discussing the purification of the soul by means of theurgy; gods, souls and zodiac signs

A hunter takes aim at a crane while a snake bites his leg

Vanity of Learning
()

Erasmus, Adagiorum chiliades
I vi 69

Quae supra nos, nihil ad nos

The things that are above us are nothing to us

dpd_0838: Icarus falling into the sea, Daedalus flying above him; frame decorated with festoons, vases with flowers and birds

Twins of different sex as example against the arguments of astrology: Young woman winding wool (2nd of 2)