Going live, a Rembrandt restoration

October 17, 2018

Art lovers will be soon be able to watch one of the world’s most famous paintings being restored live and online.

Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch will undergo a multi-million-euro overhaul at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum under the full gaze of the public, its general director said on Tuesday.

The unique project starting in July 2019 will let art lovers take a look at the normally secretive process as the Dutch master’s 1642 tableau is brought back to its full glory.

“The Night Watch by Rembrandt is one of the most famous paintings in the world and we feel we have to preserve it for future generations,” said Rijksmuseum General Director Taco Dibbits.

“Over two million people a year come to see The Night Watch, it’s a painting that everybody loves, and we feel that the world has the right to see what we will do with it.”

The last major restoration work was carried out 40 years ago after a mentally ill man slashed the painting with a knife.

Since then experts have noticed a white haze appear on parts of The Night Watch, especially in the area around the knife damage, where it is bleaching out the figure of a small dog.

The restoration, billed as the biggest in the Rijksmuseum’s history, will be carried out behind a huge glass case so that visitors to the museum in the capital of the Netherlands can see experts carry out their painstaking work.

The regeneration of the piece will also be live-streamed on the Internet so people around the world can see it be restored inch by inch.

“Conservation is usually done behind closed doors, but this is such an important painting, we feel that the public who owns it has the right to see it and we want to share this very important moment,” Mr. Dibbits said.

Rembrandt Van Rijn was commissioned in 1642 by the Mayor and leader of the civic guard of Amsterdam, Frans Banninck Cocq, to paint the picture of the officers and other members of the militia heading out on The Night Watch.

Over the last three-and-a-half centuries, the painting has endured several moves, restoration attempts and even an escape from the Nazis.

In September 1939, the painting was evacuated from the Rijksmuseum along with 30,000 other artworks as Nazi Germany closed in. When it was returned from its last hiding place in a cave in Maastricht in the southern Netherlands in 1945, it needed major restoration.


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