Oct 26, 2018

Rembrandt Restoration to Be Broadcast Globally by Rijksmuseum

Rembrandt’s ambitious painting ‘The Night Watch’ will be undergoing a multi-million restoration from July 2019. The masterpiece is currently on display at Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and will remain on display while the restoration works are undertaken.

Museum Director, Taco Dibbits, contemplated that the work “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 Night Watch’, oil on canvas by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1642; in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Image: Wikimedia Commons

The work is over 3.5 meters high and almost 4.5 meters wide, so the initial millimeter by millimeter mapping of the canvas is expected to take about 70 days. After this is complete, experts will work together to determine how to proceed with the restoration. The entire process is expected to last for several years and will involve hundreds of experts from around the world.

Dibbits hopes that the mapping and restoration will shed some light on how Rembrandt painted the canvas. He notes that “with the last conservation, the techniques were limited to basically X-ray photos and now we have so many more tools. We will be able to look into the creative mind of one of the most brilliant artists in the world”. Any insights gleaned from the process will be made public.

Discussions were sparked about the restoration when Dibbits and his colleagues began to notice deteriorations in the work. For example, a white-ish haze, attributed to age, has appeared near the dog in the lower right section. Previous touch-ups done to the work have also turned yellow and require expert attention.

The figure of the dog in the lower right portion of the painting. Image: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

The painting is no stranger to major restoration works, with previous restorations having been undertaken to repair damage to the painting caused by vandals. It has been slashed on two separate occasions and was sprayed with acid in 1990. Only the 1975 knife attack warranted extensive restoration works, however, so this will be the masterpiece’s first major overhaul in decades.

Rijksmuseum’s General Director Taco Dibbits with ‘The Night Watch’.

Prior to the restoration, ‘The Night Watch’ will be showcased in a Rijksmuseum exhibition ‘All Rembrandts’ commemorating 350 years since Rembrandt’s death. The event will showcase 400 works by the Dutch artist and will run from 15 February through to 10 June 2019.

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