Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (Rembrandt/1632)

Art cards are not my favourite type of cards but this one is really special. It was sent by my sister, Pelin when she was studying in Amsterdam last year. She went on a daily trip to Den Haag and had the chance to go to Mauritshuis Museum. On the card we see one of the many paintings of Dutch painter, Rembrandt.

The oil painting is called "Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp". Dr. Tulp is pictured explaining the musculature of the arm to medical professionals. The corpse is that of the criminal Aris Kindt, strangled earlier that day for armed robbery. Some of the spectators are various doctors who paid commissions to be included in the painting :)

Well, Wiki says "lessons were a social event in the 17th century, taking place in lecture rooms that were actual theatres, with students, colleagues and the general public being permitted to attend on payment of an entrance fee. The spectators are appropriately dressed for a solemn social occasion. It is thought that, with the exception of the figures to the rear and left, these people were added to the picture later.

One person is missing: the Preparator, whose task it was to prepare the body for the lesson. In the 17th century an important scientist such as Dr. Tulp would not be involved in menial and bloody work like dissection, and such tasks would be left to others. It is for this reason that the picture shows no cutting instruments. Instead we see in the lower right corner an enormous open textbook on anatomy". Interesting, isn't it?


  1. Oh, Rembrandt! If you have ever been to the Netherlands and some of the bigger museums there, you know that there's no way to escape Rembrandt paintings ;-) I guess I have seen enough of them!

  2. Very interesting! I've seen this painting many times before, but to hear the history behind it makes it come alive. :)