The restoration of one of the world’s greatest paintings, Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, will be broadcast live to the world via a webcam.
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam announced on Tuesday that next July it will begin an extensive investigation and restoration of the 17th century masterpiece, after signs have emerged of a growing white haze that threatens to severely fade its glory.
Taco Dibbits, general director of the museum, said that the painstaking process would not be done behind closed doors but displayed to the world, because it is a masterpiece that “belongs to us all”.
“What we saw over the past years is a white haze that appeared, especially on the lower part of the painting,” he told The Telegraph. “We cannot really say if that’s varnish or in the paint itself, but we do want to research it and treat it in the best way possible.
“The danger of not restoring is that the contrast that was there will, because of this white haze, disappear. We now have scanning and imaging techniques we couldn’t have dreamed of in the 1970s and with those, we can understand not only how Rembrandt worked but also the problems with the painting.”
A dog in the lower part of the painting has almost disappeared due to blanching, and it also bears scars of two attacks: one with a breadknife in 1975 and one with acid in the early 1990s. Mr Dibbits said that the gaps are beginning to show from the last conservation in 1976.
“The materials used at that period were less stable in colour than now, so that retouching has discoloured,” he said. “At that time, the retouching was far less precise, partly because of digital technology. We can go into minute detail and that asks for a different way of restoring it.”
In an unusual move, the 17sq m painting will be encased in a massive glass chamber made by French architect Jean Michel Wilmotte, in situ in its special hall in the Rijksmuseum. Visitors and webcam viewers will be able to watch the 77-day process of scanning the painting, investigating and then restoring it.
The wall-sized portrait – officially called the Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Bannick Cocq – was not only a massive undertaking for Rembrandt due to its size and 337kg weight. It was also the first time an official portraitist had attempted to paint people as they were, a civic guard on the move, and a slice of life during the Dutch Golden Age in 1642.
Mr Dibbits, who is appealing for donors for the €3 million conservation, said Rembrandt was an extraordinary painter of individuals.
“Rembrandt is a real rebel and does something nobody has done before with every painting,” he said. “In the Night Watch, his most ambitious painting, he is commissioned to paint a company piece. Typically that was very formulaic, with all heads in a row looking at you full-frontal. Rembrandt doesn’t paint a portrait – it’s a story, a history piece and an ode to the city of Amsterdam.”
He added that while this mixed armed guard protected the city of Amsterdam from outsiders – at the time, the Spanish – now the painting welcomes them.
“Over two million people see it every year, it’s viewed on the internet billions of times and we feel the public has a right to always have access to it,” said Mr Dibbits. “Therefore we are restoring it in the eye of the world, in the Rijksmuseum, in Amsterdam, in the room where it always is.”
In 2019, the museum will also celebrate a “year of Rembrandt”, with a special show of its complete collection of the artist’s paintings, drawings and prints, 350 years after his death.
Click Here: West Coast Eagles Guernsey