it is possible that Jan Steen inserted his self-portrait in the picture as the alchemist. In the picture we see the last pieces of jewelry and the last penny being put in the melting-pot. The emaciated mother is sitting to the right with her children, protesting. One of the gentlemen alchemists is endeavouring to convince her of the correctness of the recipe by pointing out a passage in the book. A little girl is scraping the last bits of food from the bowl.
Estate Willem Jacobsz. van Heemskerk, Leiden, deceased 1692; Grandson Leonard van Heemskerk, sale Leiden September 1771; sale J. van Bergen van der Gijp a.o., Soeterwoude June 1784, to Van Aken; sale Joh. Ph. de Monté, Utrecht, July 1825; sale W. A.Verbrugge, The Hague, September 1831 bought by Hagens; collection Viruly, Rotterdam, 1880; coll. A. Waller, Utrecht, before 1926; coll. H.Waller, Lunteren; Douwes Fine Art in London, 1985; private collection, USA; Gebr. Douwes Fine Art, Amsterdam 1996; to a Dutch private collection.
Leiden, De Lakenhal “Jan Steen”, June – August 1926, cat. no.70, pp. 27-28; – Enschede, on loan to the Rijksmuseum Twente from 1970 to1977; – New York, Exhibition of Six Dutch Dealers, Walldorf Astoria, November 1982
Literature and Expertise
John Smith “Catalogue Raisonée…” 1883, Vol. IV no. 128, p. 42; – Waagen “Jan Steen” cat no.375; – Dr. C. Hofstede de Groot, “A Cat. Raisonné of the works of the most eminent Dutch Painters of the 17th Century”, no. 232; – Thieme Becker, 1937, Vol. 31: – Dr. Ed. Trautschold, Düsseldorf, no. 232, p. 511; – Jonkvrouw Dr. C. H. de Jonge “Jan Steen”, Palet-serie, p. 36, 1960s, with ill; – Karl Braun, “Jan Steen” Lekturama, Rotterdam 1980 no. B53 (as ‘collage’ van steenfiguren en attributen); – expertise Dr. A Blankert, The Hague, dd. 17-8-1986;