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Rembrandt’s doctors
  1. Philippe Abastado1,
  2. Denis Chemla2
  1. 1Hôpital Européen Georges Pompidou, Service du Pr Fabiani, Histoire de la Médecine, Université René Descartes, Paris, France
  2. 2Hôpital de Bicêtre, Université Paris Sud 11, EA 4046, Service de Physiologie, Le Kremlin Bicêtre, Paris, France
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr P Abastado
 Hôpital Européen Georges Pompidou, 56 Avenue Kléber, 75116 Paris, France; philippeabastado{at}


Medical doctors appear in numerous Rembrandt paintings and reciprocally, physicians interested in art have used their diagnostic skills in dissecting the painter’s work, especially his lifetime of self-portraits. The possible existence of skin and eye diseases, hypothyroidism and Horton’s disease, and psychiatric and psychological traits has been a matter of everlasting debate, as summarised in the present paper. Most of all, the ageing process reveals itself over time in the continuity of the self-portraits. In the quest for signs of illness, the slightest bump in the canvas can be considered a symptom, and the examination of Rembrandt’s self-portraits is a difficult exercise. However, the resulting published papers have given rise to a great number of diagnostic hypotheses.

  • medicine and art
  • medical diagnosis
  • rembrandt
  • ageing
  • self-portrait

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  • Competing interests: None declared.