In this variation of a painting by Gerard Dou, a scholarly alchemist, wearing a fur-lined robe, gazes with directness at the viewer as he composes his note. Holding a small quill pen with an open text before him, the alchemist may be engaged in copying, editing, or translation. Small earthenware vessels rest on the shelf behind him, and in the foreground sit a globe and skull. The latter object acts as a "vanitas" or vanity symbol, reminding the viewer of the brevity of life and the inevitable passage of time.
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