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The Anatomy Lesson

The Anatomy Lesson

Author(s): Nina Siegal

Location(s): Netherlands

Genre(s): Fiction, Historical

Era(s): 1630s

Commissioned by a prominent Amsterdam medical guild, The Anatomical Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp was one of Rembrandt’s first paintings to gain public notice. The novel opens on the morning of the medical dissection, and, as they prepare for that evening’s big event, it follows several characters: a one-handed coat thief called Aris the Kid, who is awaiting his turn at the gallows: the twenty-six-year-old Dutch master himself, who feels a shade uneasy about this assignment: Jan Fetchet, a curio collector who also moonlights as an acquirer of medical cadavers: Flora, the woman pregnant with Aris’s child, who hopes to collect her lover’s body for a Christian burial before it’s too late: René Descartes, who attended the dissection in the course of his quest to understand where the human soul resides: and Pia, a contemporary art historian who is examining the painting in the future. As the story builds to its dramatic and inevitable conclusion, the events that transpire throughout the day sway Rembrandt to change his initial composition in a fundamental way. Bringing to life the vivid world of Amsterdam in 1632, The Anatomy Lesson offers a rich slice of history and a textured story by a masterful young writer.

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