Friday, March 7, 2014

Deconstructing Rembrandt

How many times have you strolled the corridors of art museums, casually viewing paintings without fully appreciating the stories behind them? Author Nina Siegal, breathes fresh life into one of Rembrant’s early paintings, “The Anatomy Lesson,” in her forthcoming novel of the same name.

Set in 1632 in Amsterdam, the story opens on the day Adriaen Adriaenszoon (alias Aris the Kid) is to be hanged. A recidivist thief, Adriaen’s body bears the scars of a life of abuse and punishment. He has no idea that circumstances are converging to immortalize his sad life.

A local curio dealer, Jan Fetchet, has arranged to bring a body to the Surgeons’ Guild that evening, so Dr. Nicolaes Tulp can give his annual autopsy lecture to a distinguished group of physicians. In addition, they have commissioned a young artist, Rembrandt Harmenzoon Van Rijn, to commemorate the occasion.

While most of the city celebrates the day of “Justice” that will lead to the hanging and autopsy, a young woman named Flora struggles to reach Adriaen before it is too late. She is carrying his child, and hopes to convince the judge that his crimes do not merit the death penalty.

The story is told through the prism of each character’s perspective, combining to shine a bright light on the genesis of a notable painting. The Anatomy Lesson, which will be published on March 11, will be an excellent choice for book discussion groups. And it may inspire you to look at art in a new way!

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