Nina Siegal’s novel The Anatomy Lesson (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2014) tells the imagined story behind Rembrandt’s first large-scale masterpiece. The narrative is recounted by several characters: the coat thief, the woman carrying his child who hopes to save him, the procurer of bodies for dissection, Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, philosopher René Descartes, and Rembrandt himself. Through art, medicine, commerce, and philosophy, all these characters go on a search for the soul in the body, in a novel of love, loss, and redemption.
Here, Siegal explains what’s going on in Rembrandt’s painting:
(Please hover over the image to read more.)
A version of this story originally appeared in the October 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 46 under the title “Anatomy of ‘The Anatomy Lesson.'”