Philips Galle, Flemish, 1537 - 1612. After a drawing by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Netherlandish (active Antwerp and Brussels), first documented 1550, died 1569. Published by Hieronymus Cock, Netherlandish, c. 1510 - 1570.
Alchemy, a pseudoscientific practice that sought to turn base metals into gold, is depicted here as a vain and fruitless pursuit. The alchemist (at far left) drops a silver coin into a bucket, while his wife reveals an empty coin purse and his children rummage for food in an empty cupboard. The consequences of this futile quest for riches are shown in the background, where the alchemist and his family are about to enter the poorhouse, designated “hospital” above the door.