Hand-colored engraving depicting a man standing before his stove, using a bellows to stoke a fire. The text reads “D. Teniers pinxt” and T. Major sculp” and “To William Pitcairn M.D. This Plate is Inscribed by his Gratefull and Obliged humble Servant Thos. Major.” and “In the Collection of Hen: Isaac Esqr.” and “No. 24.” It also reads “Published July the 7th 1755 by T. Major Engraver to his R. H. the Prince of Wales, at the Golden Head in Chandois Street, near St. Martin’s Lane, London.”
David Teniers the younger (1610-1690) was a genre painter in Antwerp. Perhaps influenced by his wife’s grandfather, Peter Brueghel, the elder, Teniers produced numerous alchemist scenes. Henry Isaac (d. 1771), the owner of the Teniers painting from which this print was made, was a Jewish diamond merchant with a house in Walthamstow, in the County of Essex.
Thomas Major (1720-1799) studied engraving in Paris. He returned to London in 1749 and, in 1753, was named engraver to George, the young Prince of Wales who became George III in 1760. The British Museum has a manuscript “Catalogue of Prints Engraved from the Finest Paintings of the Most Eminent Masters in the Collection of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales . . . The whole Collection are Printed on Grand Eagle paper; to be had either in Sheets or Bound fit for a Gentleman’s Libraries. London. Sold by T. Major, Engraver to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales . . . 1754.” This lists 26 prints after paintings by Teniers. The price for No. 24, the “Elaboratory,” was not given as the print was not yet available.
Ref: Lawrence Principe and Lloyd DeWitt, eds., Transmutations. Alchemy in Art (Philadelphia, 2012).
Jacob Wamberg, ed., Art and Alchemy (Copenhagen, 2006).
Jane Paisley Russell Corbett, Painted Science: Convention and Change in Seventeenth-Century Netherlandish Paintings of Alchemists, Physicians and Astronomers, PhD diss., Queen’s Univ., Kingston, Ontario, 2004.
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