An anatomical dissection by Pieter Pauw in the Leiden anatomy theatre. Engraving by Andries Stock after a drawing by Jacques de Gheyn II, 1615.

  • Gheyn, Jacob de, 1565-1629.
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This engraving of the anatomist and botanist Pieter Pauw performing an anatomical dissection in the Leiden Anatomy theatre was first published in 1615, entitled "Theatri anatomici academiae lugduno-batavae delineatio". It bore a dedication by Pauw to the Magistrates of Leiden and was framed by two columns of the text of a poem by P. Scriverius (Schrijver), dated 1615, in which the presence in the audience of Scaliger, Dousa the younger and Lipsius is singled out. These are posthumous portraits as all had died several years before the print was published. This view of the Leiden Anatomy theatre is much sparer than that of the prints after the design of J. Woudanus of c. 1609, in which one sees an elaborate display of articulated human and animal skeletons, disposed about the tiers of the theatre. In the De Gheyn design there is only a single skeleton bearing a staff with a banner that reads: "Mors ultima linea rerum". This could be a portrayal of the anatomy theatre once the skeletons had been removed in preparation for the anatomy and its audience, but it also reflects the influence of the title page of Vesalius's De humani corporis fabrica (1543), seen from a similar low viewpoint with a skeleton holding a staff in a direct line above the dissection (see this catalogue, no. 24285) Other contemporary views show a theatre of six tiers that accommodated a larger audience than the more intimate scene De Gheyn has chosen with a theatre of apparently only two tiers. De Gheyn's association with Pauw can be dated back to 1596-1598, when he made drawings of aborted foetuses and deformities which were once displayed in the Leiden Anatomy theatre


Leiden : Petrus Pauw, 1615.

Physical description

1 print : engraving ; image 28.4 x 22 cm


I.D. Gheyn inv. Andr. Stoc. scul.

References note

I. Q. van Regteren Altena, Jacques de Gheyn. Three Generations, 3 vols, The Hague, Boston and London 1983, i, p. 115; ii, no. 154
G. Wolf-Heidegger and A. M. Cetto, Die anatomische Sektion in bildlicher Darstellung, Basel and New York 1967, pp. 349-350, no. 307 and 307a
W. Schupbach, The paradox of Rembrandt's Ànatomy of Dr. Tulp', Medical History, Supplement no. 2, London 1982, p. 73, no. 14c; pp 96-97, no. 18b
W. S. Heckscher, Rembrandt's Anatomy of Dr. Nicolaas Tulp, An iconological study, New York 1958, p. 26, fig. 2
F. W. H. Hollstein, Dutch and Flemish etchings and engravings and woodcuts, ca. 1450-1700, Amsterdam, vii, p. 191, no. 61


Wellcome Collection 24757i


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