The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp – Rembrandt

I don’t know about you, but it is hellish trying to get a doctors appointment in the UK these days.  You really have to schedule in being ill if you want to see a doctor, as if you are ill on the spare of the moment, you are unlikely to be able to see a doctor within 2 weeks, by which time you have either recovered, or you have taken yourself off to A & E.  Not ideal in the slightest, but it does assist in stopping the time wasters I guess.

I don’t think this was such an issue back when Rembrandt painted “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp” in 1632.  I suspect that most avoided doctors for fear of what the the treatment might be, and what might happen to them.  Rembrandt was only 25 when he was commissioned to paint this, and it was taken from the yearly public dissection (yes public, these were treated as social events…just shows how squeamish we have now become).  Every five to ten years, the surgeons guild would commission a painting by the leading portrait artist of the time and 1632 was Rembrandt’s year.  Each of the people shown in this painting would have paid to be in the picture, and the more central they appear, the more money they would have paid (with exception of the corpse, of course).

Rembrandt’s depiction radically changed the face of these types of paintings as he included a full length corpse, which had not been done before.  Rembrandt has used christian iconography for the corpse, in the way it is dressed and laid, mimicking paintings of Jesus being laid out after his crucifiction, and the scene which he has created is essentially not really what he would have seen.  The surgeon would have opened the chest cavity first due to the rate of deterioration of the organs.

The corpse in the painting is that of Aris Kindt, a known criminal at the time, who had been convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to death by hanging.  You will note that the face of Aris is partially shaded, which is a technique that Rembrandt often used as a depiction of the shadow of death in his work.

It should be pointed out, that Rembrandt signed the corpse in this painting as he was still working on his signature at this stage in his career, so if you look really closely, you will see that the belly button forms the letter R.

The arm which is being dissected in this picture has been discussed and length as for a time it was celebrated how well the representation of the anatomy had been completed, and it was thought that Rembrandt probably copied this out of a textbook due to its accuracy, but in 2006 Dutch researchers recreated the scene and found several discrepancies in the way the arm had been painted.

You may also notice in this picture that not one of the surgeons in attendance appear to be looking at the corpse.  In fact they seem to be looking at anything other than the body.  This is said to be creating dynamism in Rembrandt’s work, but I recently viewed the original of this painting in the Mauritshuis museum, and it feels odd, almost off balance as it feels that no one is concentrating on the job in front of them.  Now, I would love to say that this was just my point of view, but I could hear mumbled comments from other spectators of the painting saying very much the same thing.   It makes the scene feel confused at best.

The light in this painting is coming from the left hand side, accentuating the shadow of death across the cadavers face, and highlighting each of the surgeons with great precision.

This is actually not the full painting, and perhaps the direction of stares would have made more sense had the rest of the painting survived.  The painting was damaged in a fire in 1723 and now only this central part remains.

There is a less detailed version of this painting hanging in the University of Edinburgh fine art collection, so if you are unable to make it to The Hague and are in Scotland, you can see a version of this.

Personally, I am not a fan of Rembrandt, as I find his work, while classically impressive, especially with what he was able to achieve at a very early age, a bit sketchy in the details.  Many of his works appear less refined that some of his peers, which leaves me wondering how be became such a big name.  Take for example his depiction of Andromeda,  she was supposed to be beautiful, yet in his painting she appears almost hag like.  I did however chose to write about this painting as the detail surrounding the work enthralled me.

Regardless of how I feel about Rembrandt, it is difficult to deny his talent, as I certainly wouldn’t be able to paint as he did, and as we know mimicry is the greatest form of compliment, with his works plagiarised and bastardised through the ages.  Perhaps one of my favourites is this one…


What do you think of The Anatomy Lesson?  Why not tell me in the comments?  Like this post?  Why not share it?


6 thoughts on “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp – Rembrandt

Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

Finding French Charming

Finding True Love After Forty

My expressions

unexpressed thoughts

Fang & Saucer

From Stokervania to Austenland - to Infinity and Beyond!

Art & criticism by eric wayne

Art and Criticism by Eric Wayne

Quaint Revival

quirks, quips & photo clicks

It's Turpintime!

Stuff & Bits For The Muddled and Addled.


When the universe hands me a pen and then regrets it

The Artsy Psyche

I speak in colours and metaphors.

Eerie Unsolved

A Mix-Up of Mysteries, Conspiracies and All Things Spooky!

As Lady Stitch

Living with fibromyalgia.

Being Beckyy

We were born to be real, not to be perfect.

The Battles of Frankie

The failings and anecdotes of an average Aussie woman

The Formidable Endeavor

Ph.D. student life

The Indy Diarist

A Day in the Life

Leggings & Tea

Books. Art. Life.

The Non-Alcoholic Student

Ramblings on the University experience from a sober student

High Lumen

lighting design blog

Lady with Black Lipstick

Hopeless romantic speaking her thoughts.

Scandi Lifestyle

A lifestyle blog about all things Scandinavian


This is the page where I will share my thoughts about football, my memories and funny stories.


A panorama is defined as an unbroken view of the whole region surrounding an observer. My panorama includes a jumbled mess of ideas and thoughts waiting to be typed out. Welcome to my panorama.

Marina Baker

marketing, social media, & business development

Chef Dave, Esq.

Lawyer by trade -- Cook by passion

Trailhead Health Coaching

Your Trailhead to... Fitness & Nutrition, Relationships & Parenting, Lifelong Learning, Minimizing & Decluttering


Psychology to Motivate | Inspire | Uplift



The Insides

Don't h8, apprici8

Diary of a Twenty Something

Finding meaning in the small and mundane...


an online diary of an introvert.


Tick talk, around the clock. Because Lyme disease never takes a day off.

Amdall Gallery

Collection of artwork, data analysis, and other assorted projects by Jon

The Butterfly Tree

where stories take wings

The Planet According to Dom

The workings of a dyslexic mind

O' Canada

Reflections on Canadian Culture From Below the Border

Black Pen Art

Website and blog on the simplicity of the line. (c) 2017. All contents belong to sueblackpenart

The Daily Travesty

Bad Poetry On Purpose

The Semicolon

Where words speak out loud.

No-Madder Nomadder

Where am I going?


to the story of my life

%d bloggers like this: