The Anatomist's Hat


"Rembrandt’s painting of the anatomist, Dr. Andreas Tulp, portrays the habit of anatomy artists of the Renaissance to wear a hat—which they would not take off, even during dissections. In doing so, they demonstrated their independence from the social norms of their time.

For more than fifteen years, my physical self-conception has been linked with a black hat. Since then, the question as to why I wear a hat has trivialized many a discussion. Many times people insinuate that I wear a hat to emulate Joseph Beuys. Any comparison with the object artist, however, will fall on corpses should not all of a sudden become useless things with deaf ears—my hat has nothing to do with him. The person who seems to be more in line with my hat fad is the eccentric Englishman and contemporary of Goethe, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), who advocated as lawyer and philosopher that death. Nor is my hat a brand mark, it symbolizes something entirely different. I am a democrat and individualist with all my heart. The strength of our Western democracy lies within the promotion of individualism, based on the maxim, "live and let live."

Gunther von Hagens

Rembrandt Harmenzoon van Rijn: "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolas Tulp"