Rembrandt's famous Night Watch to be restored at the Rijksmuseum

Rembrandt's famous Night Watch to be restored at the Rijksmuseum

The director of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has announced that Rembrandt’s The Night Watch will undergo a major restoration. One of the most famous Dutch paintings of all time, The Night Watch has been declared “an ode to the city” by the mayor of Amsterdam Femke Halsema, therefore the restoration is vital for posterity and cultural heritage of the Netherlands.

An international team of expert restorers will convene in the summer of 2019 as the famous Night Watch painting gets a major refurbishment. Intensive research will be under way, utilising the latest technology scanning techniques, computer analysis and high-resolution photography, which will reveal more about the masterpiece.

Watch the restoration in action

From July 2019 onwards, the restorers will work on the famed 17th-century work of art behind a glass panel. It has been moved from its usual space onto a temporary moveable easel and a platform is being created on which the restorers will be able to access the work.

The public will be able to watch the restoration as it takes place! According to Taco Dibbits, director of the museum, “During the restoration, the distance from the public to the masterpiece will be seven metres. So, it is possible for anyone to see.” It can also be watched remotely on a specially dedicated website, so this cutting-edge work can be admired from all over the world.

Vandalism in the 20th century

The painting has undergone around 25 treatments since 1642, but the last major renovation took place in 1976, due to severe deliberate damage.

In the last century, the Night Watch has been vandalised three times. In 1911, in 1975 and in 1990. The first two damaging incidents were caused by a knife and the last attack was an acid attack. 

All the damage has since been repaired, but on recent close inspection, a slight haze was noticed on the underside of the painting. There are also discoloured sections and places where the varnish has yellowed, and the dog on the bottom right-hand corner of the painting is losing its vibrant colour.

Hailing from the Dutch Golden Age

The Night Watch is one of the most prized Dutch paintings, hailing from the Dutch Golden Age. It dates back to 1642, painted by Rembrandt van Rijn. At the time, it was seen as ground-breaking to have a group portrait which conveyed movement, rather than a static portrait. The three main elements that set the Night Watch apart from the rest are its sheer size, the use of light and shade and the motion.

Where Rembrandt actually painted the Night Watch remains a mystery. Research proves that the painting would have been too large to have been painted in his own studio. Some researchers believe he may have painted it in a nearby church.

A painting of various names

The Night Watch is an easy name to remember, as unforgettable as the sheer magnitude and brilliance of the painting itself. However, the painting has other names. It was originally called Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, and is also known as The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch.

The painting was commissioned by Captain Banning Cocq and 17 members of the civic militia guards. It was one of a series of similar portraits of Dutch military men, but by far the largest and most prolific.

Have you been to the Rijksmuseum and seen Rembrandt's The Night Watch yet? Let us know in the comments below!

Rachel Deloughry


Rachel Deloughry

Rachel is a writer, editor and digital content creator, passionate about the arts, culture and lifestyle.

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