The Rijksmuseum Museum in Amsterdam has announced that members of the public will be invited to watch the restoration of ‘The Night Watch,’ Rembrandt’s most celebrated masterpiece next year. The project will begin in July 2019, and the public will be able to watch the entire process at the museum and online. The rare opportunity is the museums largest research and restoration project in its history.
It has been more than 40 years since The Night Watch underwent its last major restoration, following an attack on the painting in 1975. Before the restoration begins, The Night Watch will be the centerpiece 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.
Commissioned in 1642 by the mayor and leader of the civic guard of Amsterdam, Frans Banninck Cocq, to create a group portrait of his shooting company, The Night Watch is recognised as one of the most important works of art in the world today. The painting is celebrated particularly for its bold and energetic composition, with the musketeers being depicted ‘in motion,’ rather than in static portrait poses. The Night Watch belongs to the city of Amsterdam, and it has been the highlight of the Rijksmuseum collection since 1808. The architect of the Rijksmuseum building, Pierre Cuypers (1827-1921), created a dedicated gallery of honor for The Night Watch, and it is now admired there by more than 2.2 million people annually.
The Rijksmuseum continually monitors the condition of The Night Watch, and it has been discovered that changes are occurring, such as the blanching on the dog figure at the lower right of the painting. To gain a better understanding of its condition as a whole, the decision has been taken to conduct a thorough examination. This detailed study is necessary to determine the best treatment plan and will involve imaging techniques, high-resolution photography and highly advanced computer analysis. The research team working on The Night Watch is made up of researchers, conservators, and restorers from the Rijksmuseum, which will conduct this research in close collaboration with museums and universities in the Netherlands and abroad.
For the restoration, The Night Watch will be encased in a state-of-the-art clear glass chamber designed by the French architect Jean Michel Wilmotte. This will ensure that the painting can remain on display for museum visitors. A digital platform will allow viewers from all over the world to follow the entire process online. – GM
Images courtesy of the Rijksmuseum Museum.