Dr. Nicolaes Tulp is pictured explaining the musculature of the arm to medical professionals. Some of the spectators are doctors who paid commissions to be included in the painting. The painting is signed in the top-left hand corner Rembrandt. f[ecit] 1632. This may be the first instance of Rembrandt signing a painting with his forename (in its original form) as opposed to the monogramme RHL (Rembrandt Harmenszoon of Leiden), and is thus a sign of his growing artistic confidence. The event can be dated to 16 January 1632: the Amsterdam Guild of Surgeons, of which Tulp was the official City Anatomist, permitted only one public dissection a year. The body would have to be one of an executed criminal. Anatomy lessons were a social event in the 17th century, taking place in lecture rooms that were actual theatres, with students, colleagues and the 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 the uppermost figure (not holding the paper) and the farthest left figure were added to the picture later.
The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp
oil on canvas • 216 x 169.5 cm