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Art & Design

Written by Helen van Raaij

Het Mauritshuis
Image by: Het Mauritshuis

The anatomy lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp

Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1593-1674) was a physician, and later on became mayor of Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Rembrandt painted a portrait of him along with seven surgeons in 1632. The painting by Rembrandt was called 'The anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp'.

Dr. Nicolaes Tulp gave surgeons (as shown in the painting) a theoretical lesson in human anatomy twice a week. It wasn’t until 1631 that he started to dissect people at the so-called 'public autopsy'. In 1632, a second public autopsy took place at which Rembrandt was present. The painting can be seen at the Mauritshuis museam in The Hague, the Netherlands.

As described by 'Museum het Rembrandthuis':

“It looks as though Rembrandt captured the men at a specific instant in time, but in fact the painting is a careful and very well thought out composition. The viewer’s attention is focused on Tulp, who demonstrates how the muscles of the arm are attached. The corpse’s arm has been laid open for the purpose. The body used for these public autopsies was usually that of a criminal, in this case Adriaen het Kint. The names of the men portrayed in the picture are listed on the piece of paper held by the man at the back.”

Het Mauritshuis
Image by: Het Mauritshuis
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