(British, c. 1738–1821)
Alma and Robert D. Milne Fund 1995.2
Catalogue raisonné: Clayton 163; Chaloner Smith 44
State: III/V; I/II
Traditionally, the chief pursuit of alchemists was the search for "the philosopher's stone," which would miraculously transform base metals into gold. The alchemist pictured here, however, accidentally discovered phosphorus, to his own amazement and awe. Despite the Gothic setting and picturesque details, Wright's purpose was not to ridicule superstition, but to commemorate the birth of chemistry as a modern science, beginning with the discovery of phosphorus in 1676. Wright strove for accuracy in depicting the alchemist's apparatus, since many of his friends and patrons were scientists and intellectuals who had stimulated the artist's interest in scientific inquiry.
The information about this object, including provenance, may not be currently accurate. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email email@example.com.
To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.
All images and data available through Open Access can be downloaded for free. For images not available through Open Access, a detail image, or any image with a color bar, request a digital file from Image Services.