Habiéndose graduado como médico y ejercido con éxito esta profesión en Ámsterdam (Países Bajos), Nicolaes Tulp ganó tal prestigio que en 1628 fue designado Praelector Anatomiae. Por Luis Felipe Brice.

El nombramiento oficial era algo así como “gran profesor de anatomía” del Gremio de Cirujanos. Su tarea básica consistía en realizar disecciones públicas, con fines didácticos y también de esparcimiento.

Por disposición real, las necropsias sólo tenían lugar una vez al año durante el invierno, para una mejor conservación del cadáver, que debía ser el de un prisionero ejecutado.

La sede del evento, un edificio de la capital neerlandesa denominado Waag y habilitado como “teatro de anatomía”.

No nada más se trataba de un acto académico al cual acudían fundamentalmente galenos: era en parte también un espectáculo al cual asistía un público selecto que pagaba boleto de entrada y vestía con elegancia para la ocasión


Cuatro años después de su designación, al doctor Tulp se le ocurrió encargar un retrato grupal (muy de moda entre las élites neerlandesas de la época) que inmortalizara una de aquellas trascendentales sesiones.

Por recomendación de un comerciante de arte, el elegido para llevar a cabo tan importante obra fue el muy joven (de 26 años), pero ya bastante acreditado pintor Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (mejor conocido simplemente como Rembrandt).

Desde luego, para trabajar en su primer retrato colectivo, el artista presenció la intervención de Tulp efectuada el 16 de enero de 1632.

Lección de anatomía del doctor Sebastian Egbertsz, uno pintado por Aert Pietersz en 1603 y el otro por Thomas de Keyser en 1619; así como de Lección de anatomía del doctor Willem van der Meer, de Michiel Jansz van Mierevelt, realizado en 1617.



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