The Search for the Alchemical Formula
A man in red skull cap and coat furred at collar and cuff sits with open book on his lap, body facing left with head turned right, in a green tattered velvet chair. At right, a cloth-covered table topped with a skull. The skull reminds the viewer of life's brevity and time's passing. To his left sits a furnace and distillation apparatus.
collection of Demidov, Anatolīĭ, principe di San Donato, 1812-1870.
W.C. Jutte, Pittsburgh, PA, prior to 1905 and probably prior to 1901. 
Sheldon Hartford, prior to 1939; to his mother Mrs. Richard V. Nuttall (gift to Chester G. Fisher, in or shortly after 1939). 
Fisher Scientific, Pittsburgh, PA; Fisher Scientific International Inc., Hampton, NH, ca. 1939-2000.
The Chemical Heritage Foundation, 2000 (from Fisher Scientific International).Show notes
 W. C. Jutte, President of the Pittsburgh Coal Company, shot himself to death in 1905 after losing his fortunes in copper and other stock speculations. Jutte had brought the painting back from Europe, probably before 1901, when apparently his bouts of depression became increasingly worse.
 The next owner of the painting, Sheldon Hartford of a prominent Pittsburgh family, also died tragically. At age 24, he was in a fatal car crash in 1939 near Lake Tahoe, Nevada. He must have acquired the painting before that year. According to Chester Fisher's internal catalogue notes, Sheldon's mother Mrs. Richard V. Nuttall gifted the painting to Fisher to add to his growing collection of alchemy paintings.
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Webb, Charles Meer. The Search for the Alchemical Formula. Oil paint (paint), canvas (textile material), 1858. Science History Institute. Philadelphia. https://digital.sciencehistory.org/works/t148fj06m.
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