Rembrandt masterpiece The Night Watch to be restored – and you can watch it all unfold online

The public will be invited to watch the intimate conservation process, both up close in the gallery itself and via an internet live-stream

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2018, 4:42pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 October, 2018, 4:42pm

Amsterdam’s famous Rijksmuseum is to restore the Rembrandt masterpiece The Night Watch under the full gaze of the public, as well as live-streaming it online, the museum said on Tuesday.

The unique project starting in July 2019 will let art lovers see behind the normally secretive process as one of the world’s best loved paintings is brought back to its full glory.

The multimillion euro restoration starting in July 2019 will be open to the two million people a year who come to the gallery in the capital of the Netherlands to see the Dutch master’s 1642 tableau.

But the painstaking work on the piece, which hangs in the gallery of honour in the museum, will also be carried online so people around the world can see it be restored inch by inch.

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,” Rijksmuseum General Director Taco Dibbits said.

“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 painting of a citizens’ militia completed in 1642 has suffered in the past.

During the second world war Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, it was hidden along with other valuable artworks in a cave in the southern city of Maastricht.

In 1975 a man slashed it with a knife, leaving 12 scars in the canvas, and in 1990 an attacker sprayed acid on the canvas damaging the varnish. It took restorers only a couple of weeks to repair the damage inflicted by the acid.

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.

Rembrandt Van Rijn was commissioned 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.

Dibbits said it was special because it is the first painting of its kind to show such a group in motion, rather than in static poses, and that the restoration would show this to full effect.

“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,” he said.

Additional reporting by Associated Press and The Guardian