“Art about alchemy was popular among the middle class of northern Europe from the late 1600s through much of the 1800s, and part of that popularity was making fun of the alchemist. He is sometimes shown setting the house on fire. Often, he is poor. Worse still, he is wasting the family income on his ill-fated experiments. In some of the paintings, a thin, frail wife holding a hungry child cowers in the background. For well-off, serious businessmen of the time, these paintings showed the kind of life dreamers led, and all the misery they caused.”

Chemical Heritage Foundation – Molecular Milestones: Alchemy Attracted the Great Pioneers of Modern Science Neil Gussman. (Previously at http://www.chemheritage.org/explore/milestone_alchemy.html)