Group portrait after Rembrandt Van Rijn, unattributed, oil on canvas, approx. 31 x 23½", framed to 38 x 30½", depicting a group of men watching a dissection, [c. 1950].
Provenance: From the collection of Nobel Prize-winner Philip Hench (1896-1965), who purchased the painting in Amsterdam while on his trip to Oslo to accept his Nobel prize.
20th century oil painting on canvas reproducing Rembrandt's painting of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp's famous anatomy lesson (1632). Rembrandt's original work hangs in the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague. "Sixteenth-century artists started the practice of setting a group portrait in an anatomy theater, which was a special room where students and other interested spectators could watch a corpse being dissected. The onlookers in Rembrandt's painting ... are not [all] medical men. They are local government officials who, as was customary in their day, are attending a lecture by a distinguished scientist, just as they might attend an important theater performance. The goal was to see and be seen" (Pescio, p 34). Two figures in the painting "Dr. Frans van Loenen, the uppermost figure, and Dr. Jacob Koolvelt, at the extreme left, paid, as the first five ... had already done, to have themselves painted in some years later" (Delaney, p 98). The paper held by the second figure from the right is a list of all the men featured in the painting, and the open book at the cadaver's feet is Andreas Vesalius' quintessential anatomical work, De humani corporis fabrica (1543). The cadaver was, in life, Adriaen Adriaanszoon, alias Aris Kint [Kindt], who was found guilty of armed robbery and violence, and sentenced to death by hanging, though he was strangled shortly before his execution ceremony.
Nicolaes Tulp (1593-1674) was a Dutch surgeon and mayor of Amsterdam. While Rembrandt's painting ensured his place in history, Tulp (one of several who commissioned the painting) is also remembered for signing the fitness reports for the first Dutch settlers on the island of Manhattan, and for writing, with some doctor and chemist peers, the first pharmacopoeia of Amsterdam, Pharmacopoea Amstelredamensis (1636).
Philip Hench, along with his Mayo Clinic co-worker Edward Calvin Kendall and Swiss chemist Tadeus Reichstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1950 for the discovery of the hormone cortisone, and its application for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The Nobel Committee bestowed the award for their "discoveries relating to the hormones of the adrenal cortex, their structure and biological effects."