European Painting before 1900, Johnson Collection
The AlchemistMade in Southern Netherlands (modern Belgium), Europe
David Teniers II, Flemish (active Antwerp and Brussels), 1610 - 1690
Oil on panel, transferred to canvas
Cat. 689John G. Johnson Collection, 1917
LabelUsing a bellows, an alchemist carefully heats glowing coals under a crucible and watches for a transmutation. According to the theories of the time, it was thought possible that a base metal could be purified and turned into gold by adding the “philosopher’s stone.” Until the Renaissance, experimentation with alchemy was the preserve of royalty, philosophers, and fraud artists. By the time Teniers created this scene, however, the rising merchant classes were trying it too. Although the practice of alchemy was still controversial, its techniques—such as distillation and metallurgy—were contributing a great deal to science and industry.
* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.