The alchemist's wife looks on in dismay as the alchemist himself makes a demonstration before the furnace. Behind the couple, an assistant stokes the flames with a large bellows. At left, the alchemist's children play on the floor amongst discarded vessels—one young boy even mimics his father with a miniature 'experiment' over a brazier. The alchemist's wife seems to gesture at her son, as if to accuse her husband of providing an unsuitable example. The room is cluttered with discarded tools and the family's clothes are humble. A crucifix at upper right and a devotional image of the Madonna and Child on the rear wall lend a moral weight to this scene of family life gone awry.
Probably Freifrau von und zu Brenken (neé Marie von Haxthausen), or Julius Freiherr Bechade de Rochepine, (joint sale, J. M. Heberle, Cologne, 1 April 1886, lot 15 [810 marks to "Nolte"]). 
(sale, Christie's, London, 9 April, 1990, lot no. 24 acquired by Roy Eddleman for Spectrum).
Spectrum Laboratories, Rancho Dominguez, CA, 1990-2000.
The Chemical Heritage Foundation, 2000 (from Spectrum).Show notes
 The painting very closely matches the description in this 1886 sale, which merged the collections of Freifrau von und zu Brenken (neé Marie von Haxthausen) and Julius Freiherr Bechade de Rochepine. The listing reads, roughly translated: "In a room furnished with instruments of all kinds, on the right in the foreground, the alchemist, in a blue jacket and red cap, is cooking on an open fire, which a young man kindles, lying on the ground is a wild array of books, retorts, bottles, etc. A woman with two children approaches him. In the foreground on the left a group of four children of different ages; A boy sitting on the ground fans the fire in a brazier with bellows. In the background, five people are gathered around a table. Beautiful, rich composition in bright colors. Signed bottom left. Canvas. Height 77, width 88 cent[imeter]." The price and buyer name "Nolte" come from an annotated copy of the auction catalog in the Frick Art Reference Library.
|Original file type||TIFF|
|Rights||Public Domain Mark 1.0|
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