Many art historians believe this painting is called The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, but they are sadly mistaken. What Rembrandt has portrayed, quite brilliantly, I believe, is the moments before the attack of the first ever zombie.
Dr. Nicholaes Tulp was regarded as a highly moral doctor and surgeon, and he taught anatomy. However, he was getting frustrated with the limitations of only being allowed to dissect the corpses of criminals, which were only usable until they started to rot. He experimented with several “reanimation” processes so his students could see muscles in action, as well as extending the “life” of the corpses they were examining. Up until the time of this painting, he had been unsuccessful, but during the middle of this particular examination, the corpse, a recently executed Aris Kindt woke up.
The first to die was Kris Vandenclod, who was about to graduate from the college, and who is pictured, his head pushed forward over the corpse to get a closer look at the arm muscles. His throat was fully exposed, and quite easy to rip out, even for a newly re-animated zombie.
Art historians have noted “the whole scene is bathed in a dramatic light, imbuing the composition with a sense of action and suspense” [source]. This drama makes SO much more sense when you consider that Rembrandt painted this to celebrate the Dutch victory over the zombies.
Dr. Tulp, surprisingly, avoided becoming a zombie himself by reverse engineering his “animation” matrix, and played a prominent role in the Dutch victory.
Later, he invented the tulip, which he named after himself.
Feel free to check out Wikipedia’s entry on this painting, but they have most of this wrong.