Rembrandt's masterpiece The Night Watch to be restored in front of a live audience

Rijksmuseum general director Taco Dibbits speaking in front of Rembrandt's The Night Watch on Tuesday.
Rijksmuseum general director Taco Dibbits speaking in front of Rembrandt's The Night Watch on Tuesday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

AMSTERDAM • Amsterdam's famous Rijksmuseum is to restore the Rembrandt masterpiece, The Night Watch, under the full gaze of the public, as well as livestreaming it, the museum said on Tuesday.

The unique project will let art lovers see the usually secretive process as one of the world's best loved paintings is brought back to its full glory.

The multi-million-euro restoration starting in July next year 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's general director Taco Dibbits said.

"More than 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 last restoration work was carried out 40 years ago, after a mentally ill man slashed the painting with a knife.

 
 

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 in 1642 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.

Mr 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.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 17, 2018, with the headline 'Rembrandt's masterpiece The Night Watch to be restored in front of a live audience'. Print Edition | Subscribe