Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dissection paintings

Possibly the most recognized dissection image is the painting (top) by Rembrandt (1606-1669), The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (1632). Rembrandt also painted another dissection scene (painting above and preliminary sketch below), The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Joan Deyman (1656). Each of these paintings was commissioned by the Amsterdam Guild of Surgeons to the mark the public dissection of an executed man, which the surgeons were allowed to perform once a year. The crowd of ticket-holders that was present has been excluded, but the surgeons in the Guild paid commissions to be represented in the paintings, even if they hadn't attended the event. We know who they are - and we know who they are dissecting. Dr. Tulp (1593-1674) was appointed prelictor of anatomy in the Guild in 1628, and is shown demonstrating the muscles and tendons of the forearm. The cadaver is that of Adriaan Adriaanszoon (a.k.a. Aris Kindt [Aris the Kid]), who had been hanged for armed robbery earlier that day - January 16, 1632. Dr. Deyman (1620-1666) succeeded Tulp as prelictor and is depicted exposing the brain of Joris Fonteign (a.k.a. Black Jan), a thief who was dissected over three or four days after his execution for thievery - on January 28, 1656. The significance of the dates is the freshness of the cadavers, which were more easily preserved in cold weather. Also of note is that neither Dr. Tulp nor Dr. Deyman would have carried out the actual dissection: this manual task was performed by a demonstrator, unpictured.

No comments:

Post a Comment

You may add your comments here.