The largest and most detailed ever photograph of Rembrandt’s masterpiece The Night Watch has been unveiled on The Rijksmuseum’s website. The 44.8-gigapixel image allows visitors to zoom in on individual brushstrokes, particles of pigment in the painting and even slash marks from a 1970s attack on the artwork. The image will play a key role in Operation Night Watch, the largest restoration project ever taken on Rembrandt’s painting. Operation Night Watch resumes tomorrow inside a glass chamber in the museum’s Gallery of Honour. See Interactive Image Here
Taco Dibbits, Director of the Rijksmuseum, “The Operation Night Watch research team use the very latest technologies and continually push 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.”
The Rijksmuseum’s imaging team created this photograph of The Night Watch from a total of 528 exposures. The 24 rows of 22 pictures were stitched together digitally with the aid of neural networks. The final image is made up of 44.8 gigapixels (44,804,687,500 pixels), with the distance between each pixel measuring 20 micrometres (0.02 mm). This enables the scientists to study the painting in detail remotely. The image will also be used to accurately track any future ageing processes taking place in the painting.
Opera Night Watch resumes tomorrow, Wednesday 13 May. In the otherwise empty Rijksmuseum, the researchers will recommence their study of Rembrandt’s largest painting and its current state. Although work in the glass chamber itself was interrupted for two months due to the coronavirus pandemic, the team continued work at home analysing the research data that had already been collected.
The protocol for working in the glass chamber has been revised to conform with the guidelines set by the Dutch government and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM). Consequently, to ensure it is possible to maintain a minimum physical distance of 1.5 metres, no more than two people will work on the painting at any given time.
The second phase of Operation Night Watch, the restoration of the painting, has been rescheduled due to the pandemic. The initial plan was to start after summer 2020, but this is no longer feasible. It will now take place in early 2021.
The Rijksmuseum would not be in a position to carry out Operation Night Watch without the support of benefactors. We are therefore deeply grateful for the continued support and cooperation of our main partner AkzoNobel and the many generous donors, funds and sponsors connected with Operation Night Watch.
Ten things about the Night Watch you may not know
. The Night Watch is not the original title
Originally the painting had no title. The Rijksmuseum uses Civic Guardsmen of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, known as the ‘Night Watch’ as the official title. The title Night Watch is first used in a document in 1797.
2. It is unknown how long Rembrandt worked on The Night Watch
We know he got the commission before December 1640, because of the death of one of the painted guardsmen. The painting was finished 1642. So it took him at least one year, but probably longer.
3. In 1975 the Night Watch was severely damaged
National Archives, Public domainA disturbed man with a knife attacked the painting. He inflicted 12 cuts in the canvas. It was not the first time. In 1911 the Night Watch had also been attacked with a knife, but luckily on that occasion only the varnish layers were affected. On 6 April 1990 a man sprayed acid onto the painting. Due to the type of acid and the rapid intervention of a guard, only the varnish was damaged, as in 1911.
4. During the Second World War the Night Watch was hidden in a cave in Maastricht
National Archives, Public domainIn September 1939, the Night Watch was evacuated from the Rijksmuseum, along with 30,000 other artworks. It was hidden in bunkers near the coast. When construction of the Atlantic Wall started in 1942, it was moved to a cave in the St. Pietersberg in Maastricht.
5. The Night Watch was placed in the Kloveniersdoelen, one of the headquarters of the Civic Guards
Reconstruction created by Studio i2, at the request of Herman ColenbranderIn 1715 it was moved to the Town Hall on the Dam, now the Royal Palace.
6. To fit the painting between two doors in the Town Hall, four pieces were cut off
Copy of The Night Watch, attributed to Gerrit Lundens, c. 1642 – c. 1655. On loan from the National Gallery, London. Bequeathed by the Revd Thomas Halford, 1857.The biggest piece was cut off from the left side. These pieces have never been found.
7. In 1898 The Night Watch was carried to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam
It was moved to the other side of Museumplein for a Rembrandt exhibition. This exhibition was part of the celebrations of the inauguration of princess Wilhelmina as Queen of The Netherlands.
8. A magnificent detail is the shadow of hand Captain Frans Banning Cocq
The shadow falls on the mantle of Luitenant Willem van Ruytenburch. The coat of arms of the city of Amsterdam is placed between his thumb and fingers. Rembrandt shows that the city is safe in the hands of the militia.
9. On the painting a shot is fired
On the left the weapon is being loaded, in the middle the weapon is being fired and on the right someone is cleaning the weapon.
10. Rembrandt’s Night Watch has been treated at least 25 times
The Rijksmuseums paintings restorer removing varnish in 1946-47Operation Night Watch is the most extensive research in the painting’s history. This detailed study is necessary to determine the best treatment plan, and will involve imaging techniques, high-resolution photography and highly advanced computer analysis.
Operation Night Watch is made possible by AkzoNobel, The Bennink Foundation, PACCAR Foundation, Piet van der Slikke & Sandra Swelheim, American Express Foundation, Het AutoBinck Fonds, Segula Technologies, Henry M. Holterman Fonds, Irma Theodora Fonds, Familie M. van Poecke, Luca Fonds, Piek-den Hartog Fonds, Stichting Zabawas, Cevat Fonds, Johanna Kast-Michel Fonds, Marjorie & Jeffrey A. Rosen, Stichting Thurkowfonds en the Night Watch Fund.