Rijksmuseum to restore Rembrandt masterpiece live in gallery and online

Main Image: Taco Dibbits, General Director of the Rijksmuseum takes a closer inspection of The Night Watch, which will be restored next year under the gaze of the public both in the museum and online

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam today announced it would construct a special chamber with cameras so that members of the public can watch the restoration of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch from July 2019 both in the museum and online

This unique spectacle will take place during the museum’s The Year of Rembrandt with 2019 marking the 350th anniversary of the artist’s death with two major exhibitions honouring the great master painter.

In order to allow the public to experience the restoration, the painting will be encased in a specially made clear glass chamber designed by the French architect Jean Michel Wilmotte. The museum says this will ensure that the painting can remain on display for museum visitors and a digital platform will allow viewers from all over the world to follow the entire process online continuing the Rijksmuseum innovation in the digital field.

Before the restoration begins, The Night Watch will be the centrepiece of the Rijksmuseum’s All the Rembrandts of the Rijksmuseum (15 February to 10 June 2019) will bring together the Rijksmuseum’s entire collection of Rembrandt’s paintings, drawings and prints, for the first time in history and a second exhibition, Rembrandt-Velázquez (11 October 2019 to 19 January 2020), will put the master in international context by placing 17th-century Spanish and Dutch masterpieces in dialogue with each another.

The museum says The Night Watch is recognised as one of the most important works of art in the world today and hangs in the specially designed Gallery of Honour. It was commissioned in 1642 by the mayor and leader of the civic guard of Amsterdam, Frans Banninck Cocq, to create a group portrait of his shooting company. It is more than 40 years since The Night Watch underwent its last major restoration, following an attack on the painting in 1975.

Children learn about The Night Watch at the Rijkmuseum, which attracts two million visitors a year

Taco Dibbits, General Director of the Rijksmuseum said:  “The Night Watch is one of the most famous paintings in the world. It belongs to us all, and that is why we have decided to conduct the restoration within the museum itself – and everyone, wherever they are, will be able to follow the process online.”

The Rijksmuseum says it has been discovered that changes are occurring to the painting, such as the blanching on the dog figure at the lower right of the painting, and to gain a better understanding of its condition as a whole, the decision has been taken to conduct a thorough examination.

The research team working on The Night Watch is made up of researchers, conservators and restorers from the Rijksmuseum, which will conduct this research in close collaboration with museums and universities in the Netherlands and abroad.

“This detailed study is necessary to determine the best treatment plan, and will involve imaging techniques, high-resolution photography and highly advanced computer analysis,” conservationists said. “Using these and other methods, we will be able to form a very detailed picture of the painting – not only of the painted surface, but of each and every layer, from varnish to canvas.”

Last year saw the completion of the restoration of Rembrandt’s portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit.