The Anatomy Lesson tells the imagined story behind Rembrandt’s first large-scale masterpiece, “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp.” Set on a single day in 1632, the novel begins as Amsterdam prepares for Justice Day, a public execution followed by a dissection, banquet, and torch parade through town. Several characters — including the doomed man, a curio dealer, Dr. Tulp, a peasant woman, Rene Descartes, and Rembrandt himself — each tell part of the the tale of how a common coat thief became the artist’s muse. This was, after all, the first painting to which a young artist from Leiden signed his name for the first time: Rembrandt. Through art, science, medicine, philosophy, and through acts of tenderness and mercy, each of the characters in The Anatomy Lesson go on a search for the soul in the body. It is a novel of love, loss, and redemption through art.
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