A painting in brunaille, a monochromatic image in tones of brown. This painting shows a seated alchemist in peasant garb. In his hands he holds a crucible and a pair of tongs, working before the light of a glowing fire within the furnace. A nearby tripod holds a small pot over the fire, while tongs, an hourglass, and other tools and implements hang close by. A large distillation apparatus with a long-necked retort sits behind him on a makeshift table made from a barrel. In the background, the alchemist's wife looks on in dismay, displaying the family's last coins in a desperate gesture, flanked by her children. Their open-handed gestures signal the family's poverty and struggle, as the alchemist chases his vain dreams of gold and glory.