STRADANUS, Johannes
(b. 1523, Brugge, d. 1605, Firenze)

An Alchemist's Laboratory

1570
Oil on slate
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany (1541-1587), the son of Cosimo I de' Medici and Eleonora di Toledo, was given to a practice on the cusp between chemistry and mysticism. Alchemy had emerged in the thirteenth century, when certain courts in western Europe were enjoying a degree of exchange among Christian, Muslims, and Jewish scholars. Some of the grand duke's private investigations had practical goals, for example, to discover commercial processes, such as seeking the secret of making porcelain, or melting rock crystal, that could revive Florence's tepid economy. In his rooms in Palazzo Vecchio, Francesco engaged in more arcane experiments.

This painting, depicting an alchemist's laboratory, is in Francesco's 'studiolo' in the Palazzo Vecchio.