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Oil painting - A Chemist in His Laboratory
  • A Chemist in His Laboratory
    David Teniers the younger, born 1610 - died 1690
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A Chemist in His Laboratory

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Date:

    19th century (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    David Teniers the younger, born 1610 - died 1690 (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Oil on oak panel

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by John M. Parsons

  • Museum number:

    525-1870

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

A chemist (alchemist?) sits a desk in his laboratory holding aloft a glass beaker containing an amber liquid, he is surrounded by books and glass and earthenware vessels and is attended by a man holding a basket, three assistants work at a table in the background. David Teniers II (1610-1690) apprenticed with his father, David Teniers I, with whom he also collaborated. Teniers's genre pieces were greatly prized by Antwerp dealers and made him famous. By 1647 he was working for Archduke Leopold William, Governor of the southern Netherlands. Teniers's early work is similar to that of Adriaen Brouwer, who settled in Antwerp in 1631. After his peasant genres, Alchemy was the artist's favourite theme. Alchemist's activities were of interest to many artists in the seventeenth century as the pigments and glazes used were produced by similar methods. Alchemy constituted an integral part of 17th century scientific thought as little distinction was made between alchemy, chemistry and medicine. As in 525-1870, Teniers often depicted his alchemists studying or devising experiments in their laboratories, surrounded by objects such as crucibles, alembics (distillation flasks) or athanors (large metal furnaces that resemble stoves) together with books, hourglasses and globes. The V&A picture appears to be a later work by an artist looking at several of Teniers' paintings of alchemists. The primary figure in the V&A picture looks much like The Alchemist now in Leipzig and similar to Teniers' 1680 self-portrait as an alchemist now in Munich.

Physical description

A chemist (alchemist?) sits a desk in his laboratory holding aloft a glass beaker containing an amber liquid, he is surrounded by books and glass and earthenware vessels and is attended by a man holding a basket, three assistants work at a table in the background

Date

19th century (painted)

Artist/maker

David Teniers the younger, born 1610 - died 1690 (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Oil on oak panel

Dimensions

Height: 25.5 cm estimate, Width: 38 cm estimate, :

Object history note

Bequeathed by John M. Parsons, 1870

Historical significance: David Teniers II (1610-1690) apprenticed with his father, David Teniers I, with whom he also collaborated. Teniers's genre pieces were greatly prized by Antwerp dealers and made him famous. By 1647 he was working for Archduke Leopold William, Governor of the southern Netherlands. Teniers's early work is similar to that of Adriaen Brouwer, who settled in Antwerp in 1631. During the 1640s and 50s, Teniers began to paint open-air peasant fairs, generally set in front of an inn. After his peasant genres, Alchemy was the artist's favourite theme. Alchemist's activities were of interest to many artists in the seventeenth century as the pigments and glazes used were produced by similar methods. There was also a widespread public interest in the subject at the time, as testified by the numerous alchemical treatises published between 1500-1700. Alchemy constituted an integral part of 17th century scientific thought as little distinction was made between alchemy, chemistry and medicine. As in 525-1870, Teniers often depicted his alchemists studying or devising experiments in their laboratories, surrounded by objects such as crucibles, alembics (distillation flasks) or athanors (large metal furnaces that resemble stoves) together with books, hourglasses and globes. The V&A picture appears to be a later work by an artist looking at several of Teniers' paintings of alchemists. The primary figure in the V&A picture looks much like The Alchemist now in the Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig (1.1065) and similar to Teniers' 1680 self-portrait as an alchemist now in Schleissheim Gallery, Munich.

Historical context note

Netherlandish genre painting generally depicted the lower classes of society, especially peasants, but as the demand for such pictures increased throughout the 17th century, the works came to also depict more elevated social classes. These pictures usually depict scenes of everyday life set in domestic interiors or in the countryside. Scholars are still debating whether they bear a metaphorical meaning and hidden messages, or just feature a close depiction of contemporary events. In both case they are associated with health, pleasure and liberty.

Descriptive line

Oil painting, 'A Chemist in his Laboratory', follower of David Teniers the younger, 19th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Kauffmann, C.M. Catalogue of Foreign Paintings, I. Before 1800. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1973, pp. 268-269, cat. no. 336.
Jane P. Davidson. David Teniers the YoungerLondon : Thames and Hudson, 1980.

Materials

Oil paint; Oak

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Vessels; Chemists; Books

Categories

Paintings

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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