Night Watch displayed for the first time in 300 years "as Rembrandt intended it"
Rembrandt's Night Watch will be temporarily displayed in its original format for the first time in more than three hundred years. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has created reproductions of pieces of canvas slashed from all four sides of the painting, and placed temporary panels to replicate the painter's original work. The largest portion was removed from the left side of the painting, which cropped out two militiamen.
When Rembrandt van Rijn completed the world-famous painting in 1642 it was considerably larger than today. When the Night Watch was moved around 1715 to a room in the new town hall in Amsterdam, now the royal palace on Dam Square, the canvas was too large for the space it was to be housed. Pieces of the painting were then cut off and have never been recovered since.
Rob Erdmann is a professor at the University of Amsterdam in the Department of Conservation and Restoration, and a senior scientist at the Rijksmuseum. "I designed a sequence of three artificial neural networks to make a computer reconstruction of the missing parts of the Night Watch from a small copy that was made before it was cut down," he said on Twitter.
The copy he referred to was made hundreds of years ago by Gerrit Lundens. It served as the basis to produce the missing pieces now hanging in the museum.
"That is why we have now had so-called artificial neural networks work overtime to reconstruct the original appearance of The Night Watch. The computers have spent hours and hours calculating to recreate the missing pieces on the basis of a 17th-century copy," the Rijksmuseum stated. That was preceded by the museum's team meticulously studying Rembrandt’s most famous painting for years, particularly the paint and the technique.
The resulting four panels measure 64.4 centimeters on the left side, 23.3 cm at the top, 7 cm on the right, and 11.3 cm at the bottom. That made the painting over 16 percent wider and 3.5 percent taller.
"Thanks to this reconstruction, we can now see that the composition as it was painted by Rembrandt was even more dynamic. It is wonderful to be able to now see with our own eyes The Night Watch as Rembrandt intended it to be seen," Rijksmuseum director Taco Dibbits said.
The extended version of the Night Watch is on display at the Rijksmuseum. When the next phase of the painting's restoration begins this autumn, the temporary panels will then be removed.
I designed a sequence of three artificial neural networks to make a computer reconstruction of the missing parts of the Night Watch from a small copy that was made before it was cut down.— Rob Erdmann (@erdmann) June 23, 2021
The result is now hanging around the painting for the next three months @rijksmuseum! https://t.co/ur3kfmGrpV pic.twitter.com/TebU0bikRC