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Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ Will Be Restored In Full Public View

The restoration of the masterpiece will be performed live, on public display and streamed online

Artist’s impression of the restoration chamber. Courtesy: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Artist’s impression of the restoration chamber. Courtesy: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Artist’s impression of the restoration chamber. Courtesy: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Rembrandt’s The Night Watch (1642) is to undergo a multi-million-Euro restoration process, likely to last years, which will see the painting remain on public display. It is the Rijksmuseum’s ‘largest research and restoration project in its history.’

The Amsterdam museum has announced that the painting will be housed in a ‘state-of-the-art clear glass chamber’ – designed by French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte – in the Gallery of Honour, with conservators working under the full view of the public. The restoration process will also be livestreamed online.

‘The Night Watch is one of the most famous paintings in the world. It belongs to us all,’ director Taco Dibbits said. ‘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.’

Rembrandt, The Night Watch, 1642. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Rembrandt, The Night Watch, 1642. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Rembrandt, The Night Watch, 1642. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Rembrandt’s masterpiece – commissioned by the leader of the city’s civic guard – broke the rules of group portraiture, filling the work with dynamism and brilliant use of lighting. The title by which it is known today originates in the varnish, which darkened over years to produce a nocturnal tint – it was removed in the 1940s.

Changes in the surface of the painting, with experts noticing a whiteness bleaching certain parts, require mapping the painting using a scanner. New technologies such as macro X-ray fluorescence scanning can delve into different paint layers to inform the restoration process, which begins in July 2019. The last time the work underwent a major restoration took place four decades ago, after the painting was slashed by a mentally ill man armed with a knife.

‘Conservation is usually done behind closed doors,’ Dibbits said, ‘but this is such an important painting […] and we want to share this very important moment.’

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