Monday 16 September 2019

Rijksmuseum to restore Rembrandt’s Night Watch, in the public eye

An artist’s impression of the restoration work in progress. Drawing: Rijksmuseum

Experts at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum will begin a major project to restore Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch’ in July next year, and members of the public will be able to follow the process both in the museum and online.

The work on Rembrandt’s most celebrated masterpiece is the first to be carried out in 40 years when it underwent restoration after it was slashed by a man wielding a knife, who said he did it ‘for the lord’.

The Night Watch is one of the most famous paintings in the world,’ said museum director Taco Dibbits. ‘It belongs to us all, and that is why we have decided to conduct the restoration within the museum itself – and everyone, wherever they are, will be able to follow the process online.

The painting, which hangs at the end of the Gallery of Honour,  was commissioned in 1642 by the mayor and leader of the civic guard of Amsterdam, Frans Banninck Cocq, and is recognised as one of the most important works of art in the world today.

Dog

Its condition is constantly monitored and the museum says changes are now occurring, such as the blanching on the dog in the lower right of the painting. To gain a better understanding of its condition as a whole, the painting will now undergo a detailed study to determine the best treatment plan.

This will involve imaging techniques, high-resolution photography and highly advanced computer analysis. ‘Using these and other methods, we will be able to form a very detailed picture of the painting – not only of the painted surface, but of each and every layer, from varnish to canvas,’ the museum said.

Before the restoration begins, ‘The Night Watch’ will be the centrepiece of the Rijksmuseum’s display of their entire collection of more than 400 works by Rembrandt in an exhibition to mark the 350th anniversary of the artist’s death opening on 15 February 2019.

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