(b. ca. 1631, Haarlem, d. 1664, Haarlem)
Oil on panel, 36 x 32 cm
J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Bega's thematic repertoire included representations of quack scientists, especially alchemists, a subject he depicted at least four times. The version in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles depicts a cluttered, shabby interior in which a bearded alchemist in tattered clothing concentrates intensely as he is about to place a red, powdery sub- stance on his scales. He is surrounded by the detritus of his profession: books and papers, cryptic substances, bottles, strangely shaped jars, and chipped earthenware abound. Bega has depicted these items with astonishing fidelity. Every chink, imperfection, and reflection in the implements scattered about the room has been deftly captured. He has even expertly rendered the dust lying on the discarded clay vessels in the foreground.