′The Night Watch′: Rembrandt masterpiece will be restored in public | News | DW | 16.10.2018
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'The Night Watch': Rembrandt masterpiece will be restored in public

The Rijksmuseum has announced the unusual step of having a world-famous painting restored in the gallery where it hangs. 'The Night Watch' is the Netherlands' most valuable painting.

Art lovers will be given a rare treat when the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam restores Rembrandt van Rijn's "The Night Watch," the museum's director announced on Tuesday. Rather than take the museum's crown jewel away from its gallery for the years-long restoration, the project will be carried out in public and also be streamed online.

"The Night Watch … is one of the most famous paintings in the world and we feel we have to preserve it for future generations," Rijksmuseum General Director Taco Dibbits told French news agency AFP.

"Over 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."

Art restoration specialists will work behind a glass case in the museum's "Gallery of Honor" so that visitors can appreciate their painstaking task.

Read more: Computer fakes a work by Rembrandt

Storied history

The enormous oil painting, which is technically called "Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq," was commissioned by Cocq, then the mayor of Amsterdam, and completed in 1642. The painting is particularly notable for the Dutch master's dramatic use of shadow and light and is considered Rembrandt's most ambitious work.

Over the years it was covered with a series of heavy varnishes that led viewers to think it depicted a nighttime scene, hence its colloquial name, "The Night Watch."

It has survived a number of major restorations over the years, first having "multiple layers of boiled oil and varnishes" cleared off in the 1700s. It also survived the 1939 evacuation of 30,000 artworks from the Rijksmuseum as the Nazis closed in on the Netherlands.

It was then badly damaged in 1975 when a mentally ill man slashed the painting 12 times. The deepest cuts can still be seen in the painting today.

The Rijksmuseum is planning a major exhibition of Rembrandt's work to coincide with the 350th anniversary of his death in March 2019. The restoration, which will take years and cost millions, is set to begin in July 2019.

es/aw (AFP, dpa)

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