Elisabeth Berry Drago

Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Art History
University of Delaware

2013 to 2014
Research Fellow

Thomas Wijck’s Painted Alchemists at the Intersection of Art, Science and Practice

Abstract: Images of alchemists at work in the laboratory have long been overlooked as moralizing pictures catering to a disbelieving audience. Yet recent work on alchemy demonstrates it was the province of princes and merchants, a vital material science in which chemistry originated. This project examines the alchemical pictures of Thomas Wijck (1616-1677), seeking to understand the ways in which artistry and alchemy met and merged in the early modern studio and laboratory. Using period manuscripts and prints, I will gauge the level of accuracy in the processes and methods he represents, while exploring the collector’s market for such pictures among an educated elite. I will further address the numerous links between artistic and alchemical labor in the science of pigments, etching, and other workshop processes. My goal is to demonstrate the vital importance of new approaches which blend the history of science with the history of art. Read more about Elisabeth's research as a fellow of the Consortium here.