It has been far too long since I have posted anything in the Imaging the Medical Humanities series. Having recently returned from Europe, including some time spent in the Netherlands, I thought this might be a nice opportunity to look at one of the countless masterpieces of Rembrandt van Rijn, this one focused on anatomy.
(image courtesy of Wikimedia)
In addition, I am currently making my way through Harold Cook's fascinating account of medicine, commerce and science during the Dutch Golden Age. Chapter 5 of the book features an extended discussion of Dr. Tulp's life and career. One of the themes of the book, one critical to the development of early modern science and medicine (and the medical humanities), is the interplay between commerce, natural investigations of the New World, and the rise of what A. Richard Turner refers to as the Eye/I, the linkage between the increasing focus on what the investigating Eye could see and the construction of the scientific self.
This relationship continues to have powerful reverberations; for an excellent analysis of this dynamic in context of the history of objectivity, Lorraine Daston and Peter Galison's recent book is superb. Daston and Galison touch on many of the same themes as Cook, though in different ways, and it is hence no accident that both of them spend a great deal of time writing about botany. Botany, as a critical part of materia medica and the Renaissance/early modern interest in Dioscorides, ties together commerce, medicine, science, the New World, and the Eye/I.
I was therefore intrigued but ultimately unsurprised to learn from Cook that Dr. Nicolaes Tulp did indeed take the professional surname "Tulp" from the flower for which Amsterdam is famous, and imprinted the image outside his home and business.