Who would have expected a reception at the Dutch consulate to bring together a filmmaker, a research physician and a medical library? Dr. W. Martin Kast thought Maureen Murphy was joking when she approached him at that reception about playing the role of Dr. Tulp, the subject of Rembrandt’s famous painting, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp. When two others at the party talked about the same thing, Dr. Kast decided that either the invitation was sincere or was such an elaborate hoax that he wanted to hear more about it!
Ms. Murphy was producing and directing a mock documentary about Caravaggio, that looks into the life of seven painters, including Rembrandt, who were influenced by him. Dr. Kast became more and more involved in the project, even helping to translate and adapt the script into Dutch and co-directing the Rembrandt scene in the movie. He was particularly interested because he knew of the anatomical errors Rembrandt had made in the painting, which have been documented in the scientific literature.
Hoping to locate an historical anatomy text printed in Latin, Dr. Kast called Maggie Wineburgh-Freed, associate director for collection resources at the Norris Medical Library. She arranged for filming in the library’s rare book room using the library’s 1725 edition of Vesalius’ works which included De humani corporis fabrica, the anatomy text used in Rembrandt’s painting.
And at a return session, the screen that covered the north wall of the room during filming was retracted, revealing a print of The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp that has hung there for more than twenty years.
Look for the film, tentatively titled Caravaggio: The Search, to be released in 2008.