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The alchemist's experiment has erupted in a sudden fire, with glass shattering in midair and smoke billowing upward. The alchemist is seated awkwardly in his chair with a startled expression on his face, having turned quickly in a panic. He is seated near a table, with a red cloth and open book bearing an alchemical illustration. A large mortar and pestle, as well as a pair of bellows, sit at his feet. In the background, a view into an adjoining room shows the alchemist's wife changing the diaper of a baby. This mundane detail is actually a clever, if slightly scatalogical, visual pun: scenes such as this were frequently used as illustrations for the Dutch expression "al ghemist," or "all is waste," a mocking play on "alchemy."

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