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Rembrandt, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632
This is Rembrandt’s first group portrait, commissioned by Dr. Tulp and his associates (the two figures on the left were probably added later). The cadavers used for medical dissections (of which there were one or two a year in Leiden) were always criminals; this specific one was put to death by hanging, and Rembrandt cleverly hides the rope marks by elevating the chest to hide the neck. As anyone versed in the principles of dissection would know, dissections normally begin with the abdomen; in this case, Dr. Tulp specifically requested that Rembrandt focus on the hands of the cadaver first, because Dr. Tulp was known for giving lectures on the thing that distinguished humans from other creatures: their hands. Although Rembrandt is not the best anatomical painter (his proportions are a little off), most of the figures depicted in this painting were satisfied with their renderings.