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Hellenic Journal of Surgery

, Volume 90, Issue 5, pp 267–273 | Cite as

Anatomy Lessons by the Amsterdam Guild of Surgeons. Medical Education and Art

  • E de BreeEmail author
  • J Tsiaoussis
  • G Schoretsanitis
Medical History
  • 5 Downloads

Abstract

The Amsterdam Guild of Surgeons organized lessons in anatomy as part of the education of surgical trainees and surgeons. Appreciating that the acquisition of correct anatomical knowledge by regular perceptive education during dissection of the human body was essential for surgeons, in 1555 Philip II, King of Spain and Holland, gave his permission to the Amsterdam Guild of Surgeons to perform anatomical dissections on bodies of deceased humans. The anatomy instructors, called “praelectores anatomiae”, who were always academically educated medical doctors, were appointed by the guild for the teaching of anatomy. They commissioned painters to produce group portraits, with the “praelector anatomiae” delivering an anatomy lesson as the central figure. Probably the best-known of such paintings is the masterpiece of Rembrandt van Rijn (1632) "The anatomy lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp". Although these paintings are historical portraits rather than authentic pictures of an anatomical dissection, today this series of paintings of the Amsterdam Guild of Surgeons still reminds us of this essential part of the surgical training programme. While anatomy lessons on bodies of deceased humans was already an obligatory and crucial part of the medical (i.e., surgical) education in the 16th century, nowadays many medical schools unfortunately do not provide such practical anatomy lessons for their students, for whom usually only theoretical lessons and textbooks constitute the educational tools for learning human anatomy.

Key words

Guild of surgeons anatomy lessons medical education paintings 

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Copyright information

© Hellenic Surgical Society and Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Surgical Oncology, School of MedicineUniversity of Crete HospitalHeraklionGreece
  2. 2.Laboratory of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, School of MedicineUniversity of CreteHeraklionGreece

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