Inventory number
Teniers, David
The Alchemist
1631 - 1640
32 cm x 25 cm
Genre and Society
On display
Royal Collection (Royal Alcázar Palace, Madrid, “pieza que cae al parque a la entrada de la galería del Cierzo”, 1700, n. 163; Royal Palace of El Buen Retiro, Madrid, “pinturas recogidas de la casa de Bedmar”, 1747, n. 1027; New Royal Palace, Madrid, “paso de tribuna y trascuartos”, 1772, n. 1027; New Royal Palace, Madrid, “retrete [1º]”, 1794, n. 127; Royal Palace, Madrid, “retrete a la inglesa”, 1814-1818, s.n.)

And alchemist, recognizable by his characteristic cap, fans the fire in his laboratory. The presence of books, flasks and other instruments in the foreground reveal his pseudo-scientific activity. In the background, a group of three figures of a certain social standing appear to be discussing the subject from a theoretical standpoint.

This work is paired with A Surgical Operation (P01803) and both offer Teniers' critical view of these activities halfway between science and trickery.

Here, Teniers follows the traditional treatment of this subject visible in the works of Pieter Brueghel. As in many of Teniers' works, the scene is set indoors. The use of color and oppressive atmosphere tie this to the work of his teacher, Adriaen Brouwer, although Teniers gives light a greater presence, and the colors are brighter. The depiction of objects and utensils, which is habitual in his work, shows his skill at rendering reality meticulously.

This work was documented at Madrid's Alcázar Palace since at least 1734.

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