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Rembrandt’s Night Watch is on display in its original size, thanks to artificial intelligence

Rembrandt’s Night Watch is on display in its original size, thanks to artificial intelligence

Rembrandt’s Night Watch is on display in its original size, thanks to artificial intelligence

The Night Watch by Rembrandt can be seen in its original form for the first time in over 300 years! The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has created a reconstruction that is currently on show in the museum, with panels of the missing parts hanging in their rightful place with the painting, to give viewers an idea of how Rembrandt intended the painting to look.

The Night Watch as Rembrandt had intended it

The Night Watch is one of the most famous paintings in the world, which is the crowning glory of the Dutch Masters painter Rembrandt. What many people don't know is that the masterpiece that crowds flock to see, although huge, is actually much smaller than the painting that Rembrandt originally painted in 1642 - its outer edges were sadly trimmed away centuries ago to make the painting easier to move through a doorway.

Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbits explains how much of a hindrance the cropping caused: "Especially on the left side, the canvas changed considerably because cutting it caused three figures to fall off: two archers and a child standing on a bridge. The two most important figures, Captain Frans Banninck Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch, are not in the centre of the original Night Watch, but to the right of centre. This increases the dynamics and movement in the painting considerably"

The painting, in its original form, was hung in the Kloveniersdoelen banquet hall. It was in 1715 that the massive artwork was cut on all four sides, in order for it to be able to fit through a door at Amsterdam's new City Hall - the current Royal Palace at Dam Square. The canvas lost 60 cm from its left side, 22 cm from the top edge, 12 cm from the bottom and 7 cm from the right-hand side. The cutoffs were discarded and never recovered - lost to history until now!

Reconstruction of The Night Watch using AI

Now, finally, Rembrandt’s The Night Watch is on display in its original size, thanks to the use of artificial intelligence. State-of-the-art technology was employed, along with existing artwork: what was left of Rembrandt's original as well as a small copy of the full painting by Gerrit Lundens, a painter from Rembrandt’s time. But Lundens was a different painter with a different technique and that's where artificial intelligence played a vital role.

During "Operation Night Watch," an extensive and detailed restoration was carried out, and experts studied the painting in minute detail, including photographing the painting in hyper-resolution. This detailed study facilitated the reconstruction and informed restorers as they implemented AI to create replicas of missing panels. The end result is astonishing! Time to buy tickets and see it for yourselves!

Rachel Deloughry

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Rachel Deloughry

With a bachelors degree from Munster Technological University in Ireland and a masters from Hogeschool voor de Kunsten Utrecht, Rachel is a writer and editor passionate about culture and nature.

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