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Trouble Comes to the Alchemist

  • 17th–18th century
  • Dutch School
    Made in Holland
  • 31 x 22.25 in.
    Oil on canvas, mounted on board
  • On display in Transmutations
  • Gift of Fisher Scientific International
  • Fisher Collection
  • FA 2000.001.269
  • No known copyright restrictions


During a uroscopy for a female patient, a woman from the window above empties her chamber pot onto the iatrochemist. On the table before him are a mortar and pestle, a variety of flasks and containers, a human skull, an hourglass, a celestial globe, and books. A cello, traditionally a symbol of love and warning about sexual promiscuity, is seen in the left foreground. The poem on the table, attributed to Socrates, implies that the furious woman above is like Xanthippe, the Greek philosopher's famously shrewish wife. It reads:

“I knew well woman, it's no wonder, it would rain, after this thunder.”

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