Scholar of Natural Sciences (c.1875–80). Carl Spitzweg (German, 1808–1885). Oil on paper mounted on canvas. Milwakee Art Museum.
This work is a satire on lofty scholarly ambitions that inevitably fail in the absence of genuine ability. The dedicated scholar depicted here might also be self-referential. As a pharmacist, Spitzweg certainly knew that in the 19th century mummies and crocodiles were used for curative powders and that mummy coffins and stuffed crocodile skins were often displayed in apothecary shops.