Restoration work begins on Rembrandt’s iconic Night Watch

Restoration of Rembrandt’s iconic Night Watch begins – with the entire process carried out behind a glass wall so art-lovers can observe the work being done

  • Researchers and restorers at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum launched a months-long project to restore painting 
  • Working in a specially designed glass chamber, researchers are undertaking a painstaking examination of it
  • The 1642 painting last underwent significant restoration 40 years ago after it was slashed by a knife-wielding man and is starting to show blanching in parts of the canvas 

Researchers and restorers at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum launched a months-long project Monday, using high-tech imaging technology to throw new light on Rembrandt van Rijn’s iconic ‘Night Watch’.

Working in a specially designed glass chamber, researchers at the museum are undertaking a painstaking examination and restoration of the huge portrait of a 17th-century civil militia.

Art lovers around the world can follow the project online.

Researchers and restorers at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum launched a months-long project Monday, using high-tech imaging technology to throw new light on Rembrandt van Rijn’s iconic ‘Night Watch’

Working in a specially designed glass chamber, researchers at the museum are undertaking a painstaking examination and restoration of the huge portrait of a 17th-century civil militia.

The 1642 painting last underwent significant restoration 40 years ago after it was slashed by a knife-wielding man and is starting to show blanching in parts of the canvas. It is now behind glass so gallery visitors – and millions online can watch the restoration

‘This is the first time that we can actually make a full body scan and that we can discover which pigments he used not only through making little samples but with scanning the entire surface,’ said the museum’s general director, Taco Dibbits.

‘We don’t know much about how Rembrandt made this painting. And now we hope to discover more and really get a glimpse into the kitchen of the artist,’ he added.

The 1642 painting last underwent significant restoration 40 years ago after it was slashed by a knife-wielding man and is starting to show blanching in parts of the canvas.

The painting has undergone many retouches and restorations in the past and some of the later additions are starting to fade.

‘This is the first time that we can actually make a full body scan and that we can discover which pigments he used not only through making little samples but with scanning the entire surface,’ said the museum’s general director, Taco Dibbits. Pictured: Technicians and researchers check equipment set up inside a glass chamber as they begin to study Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ masterpiece

‘We don’t know much about how Rembrandt made this painting. And now we hope to discover more and really get a glimpse into the kitchen of the artist,’ Dibbits added. Pictured: Tourists take photos of the restoration of Rembrandt’s masterpiece

People look at ‘The Night Watch’, protected by a glass barrier and video surveillance, as it undergoes public restoration after a first phase of study

General director of the Rijksmuseum Taco Dibbits (right) and Thierry Vanlancker CEO of Dutch multinational company which creates paints AkzoNobel (left) paint on a glass in front of the art piece

Before the latest restoration can begin, experts will photograph and scan the painting to evaluate its condition.

They will build up a detailed digital picture by merging 12,000 separate images as well as using X-ray technology to peer through the surface.

On Monday, a macro X-ray fluorescence scanner began taking a series of images, said Petria Noble, Head of Paintings Conservation at the Rijksmuseum.

The painting has undergone many retouches and restorations in the past and some of the later additions are starting to fade

Before the latest restoration can begin, experts will photograph and scan the painting to evaluate its condition. Pictured: A woman uses her phone to take pictures of Rembrandt’s painting ‘The Night Watch’, protected by a glass barrier and video surveillance

Experts will build up a detailed digital picture by merging 12,000 separate images as well as using X-ray technology to peer through the surface. General director Taco Dibbits (left) of the Rijksmuseum and Thierry Vanlancker (CEO) of AkzoNobel will collaborate on the major restoration

On Monday, a macro X-ray fluorescence scanner began taking a series of images, said Petria Noble, Head of Paintings Conservation at the Rijksmuseum

‘Each type of technique will give us some information that we then need to put together and interpret all the information together and what that means for the painting.’ Noble said.

More than 2 million people each year visit the Rijksmuseum, which has the world’s largest collection of Rembrandt works. The Golden Age master is known for his innovative use of light and rebellious compositions.

The restoration project comes in a year that marks the 350th anniversary of the artist’s death in 1669 and is part of a ‘Year of Rembrandt’ at the museum.

The unique product will cost millions of pounds and should full restore the 17th Century masterpiece.

The restoration project comes in a year that marks the 350th anniversary of the artist’s death in 1669 and is part of a ‘Year of Rembrandt’ at the museum. The unique product will cost millions of pounds and should full restore the 17th Century masterpiece

WHO WAS REMBRANDT? 

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669) was one of the world’s greatest painters and an important figure in Dutch history.

Known for his self-portraits and biblical scenes, his early work was small but rich in detail; religious and allegorical themes were prominent.

He then moved to use light, leaving large areas of his paintings obscured in shadow.

Starting in 1628, Rembrandt took on students, and is believed to have had around 50.

Often blamed for Rembrandt’s supposed downfall are the death of his wife and the supposed rejection of a painting called the Nigth Watch by those who commissioned it.

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