The Alchemist's Experiment Takes Fire

Hendrik Heerschop1687

Science History Institute

Science History Institute
Philadelphia, United States

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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  • Title: The Alchemist's Experiment Takes Fire
  • Creator: Hendrik Heerschop
  • Date Created: 1687
  • Provenance: Science History Institute
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Public Domain Mark 1.0
  • External Link: View our digital collections
  • Medium: Oil on canvas