The alchemist sits, stirring the contents of a crucible as he carefully watches the progress of a distillation experiment. He is surrounded by alchemical apparatus, glassware, and open books. An hourglass at his side signals the passing of time. The alchemist's slightly whimsical costume gives this picture a storybook quality, and suggests that it is a nostalgic imagining of bygone experiments.
This work is signed "Reich" in the lower left of the painting and, while this is not yet confirmed, it was possibly painted by Austrian artist Adolf Reich, who traveled extensively and was known for his popular genre paintings throughout Europe during the early 20th century.