Frans Denys: The anatomy lesson of Joannes van Buyten (1648)

(Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium)

A painting by the Flemish artist Frans Denys (1610 – 1670). Paintings of Anatomical lessons are usually Dutch but this is a rare Flemish piece. Depicted are 19 members (the 'praelectores') and the board-of-directors of the barber surgeons-guild of the town of Antwerp in modern Belgium. The painting shows 20 men, the identity of this 20th person in unknown - could be a servant or a self-portrait of the artist). the men are standing in the 'theatrum anatomicum' of Antwerp with in the center Joannes van Buyten (1612-1683), official doctor of the town of Antwerp in 1642 and appointed to professor of Anatomy and Surgery in 1647. Above the three men in the center is a large cabinet with surgical instruments and two skeletons of babies, topped by three statues of the patron saints of the guild: Mary Magdalene with Saints Cosmas and saint Damian. the occasion for this painting is unclear - could be the appointment of Joannes van Buyten as professor or a reorganization of the surgeons-guild at that time. According to the contract for this painting which is found, Frans Denys received 375 guilders for this painting which was paid in three terms: 100 guilders at the start, 100 guilders halfway and 175 when he was finished. Painting from 1648.

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