Rijksmuseum to restore Rembrandt's Night Watch in public eye

Preliminary research to The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn before its restoration starts in June 2019
Preliminary research to The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn before its restoration starts in June 2019Photo: Daniel Maissan / Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam will start restoring Rembrandt van Rijn's famous painting The Night Watch in July next year. The painting will be restored in the hall where it's currently hanging, and visitors to the museum are welcome to watch the process. The restoration can also be followed online, the museum announced on Tuesday.

The Night Watch will be restored in a clear glass chamber designed by French architect Jean Michel Wilmotte. It's last major restoration happened 40 years ago, following an attack on the painting in 1975. 

"The Night Watch is one of the mot famous paintings in the world", Taco Dibbits, general director of the Rijksmuseum, said. "It belongs to us all, and that is why we have decided to conduct the restoration within the museum itself - and everyone, wherever they are, will be able to follow the process online."

The museum continually monitors the condition of The Night Watch. The decision to restore Rembrandt's famous work was made after some changes were noticed, including the blanching of the dog figure at the lower right of the painting. To gain a better understanding of the painting's condition as a whole, the restoration will be preceded by a thorough examination involving imaging techniques, high-resolution photography and an 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 Rijksmuseum said. 

Based on this detailed examination, the museum will then determine the best manner to treat and restore The Night Watch.

Next year marks the 350th anniversary of Rembrandt van Rijn's death, and the Rijksmueum will focus on the Dutch painter for the entire 2019. There will be two major Rembrandt exhibitions, as well as the restoration of The Night Watch. The first exhibition, All the Rembrandts of the Rijksmuseum, will feature the museum's entire Rembrandt collection and will run from February 15th till June 10th. Then The Night Watch will be restored. That will be followed by a second exhibition, Rembrandt-Velázquez, from October 11th until January 19th, 2020. The second exhibition will put Rembrandt in an international context "by placing 17th-century Spanish and Dutch masterpieces in dialogue with each other".