Art Market

Rembrandt’s “Night Watch” is being restored live before the public at the Rijksmuseum.

Wallace Ludel
Jul 8, 2019 3:38PM, via BBC

The start of Operation Night Watch. Photo courtesy Rijksmuseum.

Rembrandt’s The Night Watch (1642)—perhaps the most iconic painting by the Dutch master—is undergoing its most extensive restoration to date, and Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum has placed the painting in a custom glass enclosure so that the restorative work can be viewed by the public. The roughly 15-by-12-foot painting is one of the most celebrated works of the Dutch Golden Age. The restoration can also be watched online.

The project has been dubbed “Operation Nightwatch” and it is the first major restoration the painting has undergone since it was stabbed repeatedly by knife-wielding museumgoer in 1975. In a statement released by the museum, the museum’s director Taco Dibbits said the decision to allow the public to view the restoration was made because the work "belongs to us all." According to the BBC, at the opening on Monday he added:

More than two and a half million people come and see it each year. It belongs to everybody who lives in the Netherlands, and the world. And we felt that the public has the right to see what happens to that painting.

The start of Operation Night Watch. Photo courtesy Rijksmuseum.

In the museum’s statement, it noted that changes “such as the blanching on the dog figure at the lower right of the painting” have occurred over time. The Rijksmuseum statement added:

To gain a better understanding of [the painting’s] condition as a whole, the decision has been taken to conduct a thorough examination. This detailed study is necessary to determine the best treatment plan, and will involve imaging techniques, high-resolution photography and highly advanced computer analysis. 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.

The Night Watch is owned by the city of Amsterdam, and has been housed in the Rijksmuseum since 1808. The museum has a gallery called the Night Watch Gallery that was built specifically to display the painting.

Further Reading: Why Rembrandt’s Night Watch Is So Famous

Wallace Ludel