The white-hot glow of molten iron casts radiant light and deep shadow across this mezzotint, after a painting by Joseph Wright of Derby. The scene shows the workings of an iron foundry and showcases the recent advancement in power-driven machinery for metallurgy. The iron-founder and his workmen prepare to strike the metal bar, while members of the workers' families--women and children--turn aside, as if to shield themselves from sparks and heat. Wright has exaggerated the drama and tension of this scene by compressing the space; in reality, the intense temperatures of the forge would have required greater distance and ventilation for observers' safety.
Wright's paintings of scientific lectures, experiments, and emerging technologies have led many to name him a "painter of the Enlightenment." His paintings typically represent "new" or up-to-date apparatuses and practices that showcase changes in scientific understanding. Wright was a member of the Lunar Society of Birmingham, an informal learned society consisting of chemists, physicians, artists, engineers, and other amateur researchers interested in natural philosophy.