For the first time since 1975, Rembrandt’s vast “The Night Watch” was taken down and removed from its frame by conservators in the Rijsmuseum, Amsterdam.
Completed in 1642, the canvas is Rembrandt’s largest and most famous painting, made for one of the three headquarters of Amsterdam’s civic guard. These groups of civilian soldiers defended the city from attack..
“For the first time in almost 50 years, The Night Watch is flat on its belly,” Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbits told newspaper Nederlands Dagblad.
“Now it’s striking just how big it is.”
Over a period of three months The Night Watch will be put on to a new aluminium frame, which will remove some warping of the canvas.
The restoration is being done behind glass walls in the gallery where the painting is normally on display – the “Gallery of Honour” which shows works by Dutch painters of the seventeenth century, known as the country’s Golden Age. And also livestreamed to the world.
As part of the restoration project, the painting has recently been photographed to create an ultra high-resolution digital version — which the museum says is the most detailed photo ever taken of a work of art.
The conservation project has also revealed hidden sketches. The conservationists said the underpainted sketch corresponds with their understanding of Rembrandt’s spontaneous approach to composing directly on the canvas itself.
(Reporting by Toby Sterling. Editing by Jane Merriman)