Rembrandt, right or wrong?

J.P.W.F. Lakke
Groningen, The Netherlands

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) painted The anatomy lesson of Dr. Joan Deyman in 1656. The original canvas must have measured around 250 x 300 cm. and was meant to be a group portrait of Amsterdam surgeons watching a post-mortem examination. Damage due to fire in 1723 caused more than 80% loss of the painting. For this occasion we are fortunate that particular the head and body of Joris Fonteyn, a criminal hanged the previous day and now the object of dissection, was spared. The painting depicts a skull opening with the brain in situ. The curious element from a historical point of view, however, is the position of the head. At pictures left of 16th and 17th century autopsies such extreme flexures of the neck of cadavers to facilitate inspection of the skull contents were not observed. Reflections about this unique posture; practical fact or artistic fantasy?

Poster Session I
Friday, 20 June 1997, 12.15 - 12.45

Second Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and 6th Meeting of the European Club on the History of Neurology (ECHN)

Leiden, The Netherlands