Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson on view in Hermitage Amsterdam

21 March 2016

From Saturday 19 March, Rembrandt’s painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Deijman will be featured in the exhibition Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age in the Hermitage Amsterdam. The original sketch from 1656 will also be exhibited.

The sketch provides us with a rough idea of how the original composition must have looked. Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Deijman is one of the seven works of art being added to the exhibition. Besides Rembrandt’s painting, anatomy lessons by Adriaen Backer (1635/36 - 1684) and Nicolas Pickenoy (1588 – 1650/56) can be viewed in the two new cabinets. For the first time, these works of art will be placed within the context of the traditional Dutch group portrait from the 17th century.

The anatomy lesson as a group portrait
The group portraits in the exhibition Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age reflect the citizenship of the Golden Age. They depict members of the civic guard, regents, and surgeons performing their social function in 17th century Amsterdam. The surgeons’ guild organised a public anatomy lesson once a year. Commissioned by the surgeons’ guild of Amsterdam, Rembrandt painted The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Deijman in 1656. The middle section which has been preserved to this day depicts Dr. Jan Deijman (1619 –1666) dissecting the brain of Joris Fonteijn, an executed criminal. The assistant Gijsbert Calkoen is holding the top of the deceased’s skull in his hand.

Original sketch (on temporary loan)
In 1723, a significant portion of the group portrait was lost in a fire in the surgeons’ guild chamber in De Waag on Nieuwmarkt. A sketch of the original composition has been preserved and will be exhibited exclusively over the next three months. The sketch provides us with a rough idea of how the original composition must have looked. In addition to Deijman, his assistant Calkoen and the corpse of Fonteijn, seven other surgeons were originally depicted in the painting. Both the painting and the sketch are part of the Amsterdam Museum’s collection.