The Bitter Potion
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The Bitter Potion  (c. 1635), sometimes called The Bitter Tonic or Bitter Medicine or Bitter Draught, is an oil on wood by Flemish painter Adriaen Brouwer. It is housed in the Städel Museum, Frankfurt. It is a depiction of a young man with a grimacing face holding a bottle of medicine in his hand.
The genre of this painting is called a tronie.
- The half-length-figural depiction of a coarsely dressed young fellow was presumably executed in the last few years of the artist’s life and is considered one of his most prominent works. The painting’s subject has apparently just swallowed a gulp of bitter medicine, for his face is distorted by an expression of extreme repulsion: His eyes are cramped shut in a squint, his nose wrinkled, his brow furrowed and his mouth wide open. Brouwer has thus provided a depiction of taste which could hardly be more different from traditional representations of the five senses: until then, this sense had been personified by figures in the act of sampling appetizing dishes of food laid out before them. With its focus on the figure’s grimace, Brouwer’s painting is reminiscent of self-portraits painted by Rembrandt in the same period, likewise with an attempt to capture a wide range of affects in the facial features.