Upcoming Lecture on the Alchymist and the Air Pump

After successfully decoding Joseph Wright’s Orrery painting and identifying the ‘Philosopher’ with as much certainty as is possible, I felt obliged to take a look at his two other main scientific paintings. The Alchymist of course imagines an actual historical event – the discovery of Phosphorus by Hennig Brand in 1669 – but the alarming painting ‘The Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump’ appears to depict a contemporary occasion. The painting raises important questions about the ethics of scientific experimentation. It is a more complex painting than ‘the Orrery’ but is it possible to determine whether the event shown actually took place and if so where and with whom ?

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