GEM: To examine our examination of ourselves

Anatomische les van Dr Jan Deijman

The exhibition ‘De anatomische les. Van Rembrandt tot Damien Hirst‘, which opened a few weeks ago in the Gemeentemuseum The Hague, brings together all of the ten ‘anatomy lessons’ that have been painted in the Netherlands during the seventeenth century. By showing also seventeenth-century chirurgical instruments and items like anatomical preparations, a connection is made between these paintings and the medical practice of the seventeenth century. However, a more challenging confrontation is created by the contemporary art objects that the exhibition also features. Art objects by Atelier van Lieshout, Francis Bacon, Berlinde De Bruyckere, Matthew Day Jackson, Lucio Fontana, Mona Hatoum, Paul Thek, Marc Quinn and Damien Hirst show how the seventeenth-century question about ‘who we are’ is still one that haunts us. Now, in The Hague, we can see how art reflects and has reflected on this question.

(picture:  Rembrandt van Rijn, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Jan Deijman (fragment), 1656, oil on canvas, 113 x 135 cm, Amsterdam Museum)