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As one of earliest forms of science, medicine has long played an important role in human life. Until medicine became informed by experiment and anatomy in the eighteenth century, much of it was based on traditional herbs and guesswork, open to fraud and quackery. Many Dutch and Flemish seventeenth-century paintings mock these activities, but Holland was still a home of modern medicine and anatomy – Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp of 1632 (at Mauritshuis in The Hague) shows how highly valued the practice was.

The Wellcome Library houses an unrivalled collection of paintings depicting all aspects of medical history, operations, sickness and disease. Doctors and medical researchers are well represented in national portrait galleries and in the collections of hospitals and the many professional medical institutions.