The lockdown might have delayed the restoration of Rembrandt’s masterpiece, but you can now examine The Night Watch in unprecedented detail.
There’s a reason why the Rijksmuseum is one of the most popular museums in Europe. Not only it houses an unparalleled collection ranging from Hieronymus Bosch’s macabre paintings to Karel Appel’s avant-garde sculptures, it also aims to show classic artworks in a manner that is unconventional and thoroughly modern.
So when the time came to give Rembrandt’s Night Watch a little touch-up, the museum came up with a remarkable idea: To carry out the whole process of restoration during the opening hours, directly in front of the visitors’ eyes. Only a transparent glass cube separates observers from the pièce de résistance.
However, just like many institutions, even the Rijksmuseum had to close its doors due to the lockdown, preventing access to both scientists and art devotees. That’s why it has created an enormous, 44.8-gigapixel image of the Night Watch that allows anyone to study the painting remotely – and, on top fo that, in a never-before-seen quality.
The museum’s imaging team led by data scientist Robert Erdmann produced the hyper-resolution photograph from a total of 528 exposures. The pictures were then stitched together using artificial intelligence.
“The Operation Night Watch research team uses the latest technologies and continually pushes the boundaries of what was thought possible. The photograph is a crucial source of information for the researchers, and online visitors can use it to admire Rembrandt’s masterpiece in minute detail,” said Taco Dibbits, director of the Rijksmuseum, upon revealing the digital initiative on May 13.
About Rembrandt’s Night Watch
Rembrandt van Rijn’s Night Watch is the most famous and most important painting in the history of Dutch art. Created by the Golden Age master between 1640 and 1642, the colossal piece depicts 34 characters of an eponymous company as they are moving out. The central figure of the painting is Frans Banninck Cocq, one of the 17th-century mayors of Amsterdam.
Currently on display in the city’s Rijksmuseum, the organization began with the preparations for the artwork’s renewal in 2019. The initial plan was to start the restoration after summer 2020, but the efforts have been rescheduled for early next year due to the pandemic.