I celebrate you and I celebrate me too
Anatomy lesson from Dr. Tulp.
The well-known painting is large: 169 x 216 cm and was commissioned in 1632 by the "Guild" of doctors to Rembrandt Van Rijn who, like our Michelangelo and Raffaelo, will only be known by the name: Rembrandt.
In a letter to a client, it is Rembrandt himself who explains the goal of his art: "Expressing the greatest and most natural emotion".
The translation with the authentic meaning is still the subject of debate, but in summary Rembrandt's ability to unite the real fact with the motions of the spirit is its great quality.
The painting is celebratory and portrays Dr. Nicolaes Tulp during an anatomy lesson while dissecting a corpse.
The names of the participants are listed in a book held by the assistant and therefore precisely identified, including the body, which belonged to a well-known criminal just executed.
Light and setting leave room for only one possibility: to explore the faces of the participants, remaining truly enchanted.
The expressions perfectly convey complex emotions, created through facial expressions: disgust, surprise, curiosity, pride in being there, a look superior to a photograph because each protagonist is painted in the complete characteristic expression, which in a photo is almost impossible to collect at the same time.
For someone like Rembrandt, who painted more than 100 self-portraits including paintings, etchings and drawings, however, he could not miss the opportunity to insert a detail that at the same time celebrated himself.
And it is precisely the central point of the picture, that is, the tendons that Dr. Tulp is showing, taking them with pliers, to his learned colleagues.
Those tendons are those that allow the movement of the fingers and, more precisely, those that allow you to perform the gesture that Dr. Tulp shows with his left hand, which is exactly the same gesture that a painter needs to hold the brush in his hand.
In this symbolic way, Rembrandt wants to affirm equal dignity between the profession of doctor and that of painter.
Andrea Giuseppe Fadini