Rembrandt painted this group portrait of seven surgeons and physician Nicolaes Tulp in 1632.
The painting is one of a series of group portraits made for the boardroom of the Guild of Surgeons, the first of which dates from 1603. This painting reflects the anatomy lesson Tulp gave in January 1632. Twice per week, this leading physician gave Amsterdam surgeons a theory lesson. One element of this training was hands-on demonstrations in the anatomy theater to gain a greater understanding of human anatomy.
A public autopsy was performed each year, done in winter because the stench of the body would have been unbearable at any other time. Tulp, who had become a reader for the Guild of Surgeons three years earlier. He performed his first autopsy in 1631 and the second in 1632. It was on this occasion that Rembrandt made his famous painting.
The autopsied body is that of Adriaen Adrianson (alias Aris het Kint), who achieved infamy by virtue of his being the corpse shown in this painting. His police file says that he was sentenced to death and hanged on January 31, 1632, although the last arrest was for stealing a coat. His body serves as the focal point and stands out in the painting, even though he was the only person
present for not having paid for his portrait.
Dr. Nicolaes Tulp's Anatomy Lesson is ranked no. 78 on the list of famous paintings
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