Christiaen Coevershoff: The Anatomy lesson of Dr. Zacheus de Jager (1640)

(Westfries Museum, Hoorn, The Netherlands)

Paintings with an anatomy lesson like these were almost exclusively Dutch. The paintings celebrated that the Bible no longer was the primary source for all the answers - men were now looking for the answers themselves (the birth of modern science as we call it today). About 11 paintings with anatomy lessons have survived (the most famous being "The anatomy lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp" by Rembrandt). This is a rather stiff painting with members of the surgeons Guild of the Dutch town of Enkhuizen. In the middle stands the anatomist Dr. Zacheus de Jager. He was the chairman ('praelector') of the surgeons Guild of Enkhuizen. The other four persons were the wardens of the guild. The second man from the left holds a sword - he was also captain (provost) of the admiralty. Anatomical demonstrations were not given in Enkhuizen so the scene on the painting is probably a symbolic act rather than a historical reality. The guild-archives have revealed that the 5 men on the painting commissioned and paid for the painting themselves and gave the painting to the guild as a gift - 'tot eene eeuwige gedachtenisse’ ('to everlasting remembrance'). Painting from 1640