Art world has been full of anticipation for the reopening of Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam next week-end after an extensive renovation of 10 years. Exactly on Saturday 13 April 2013 Dutch Queen Beatrix will reopen this massive museum. That day there is a free entry from 12 pm until midnight. Rijksmuseum is the home of Golden Age masterpieces such as Rembrandt’s The Night Watch (De Nachtwacht) and Vermeer’s Milkmaid. The Night Watch is the main attraction there.
During the renovation The Night Watch had been shown in Phillipshall while the rest of the museum was partially open. Two weeks ago on 27 March The Night Watch was put back in the original Nachtwacht hall where it has been hung since 1642. In the Rijksmuseum history this painting had only been moved 2 times from the Nachtwacht hall, in 1898 (Queen’s Wilhelmina’s crowning) and in 1939 (World War II).
It is back!
It seemed a military operation to carefully move this 170 kg artwork. The canvas was placed in a special temporary wooden frame, then it was covered with a cloth completed with sensors and attached by a humidity meter.
Now The Night Watch is back in its place, The Nachtwacht hall. Unlike other artworks which are placed in a new location The Night Watch is the only artwork which hangs in its original location.
Although worldwide known as The Night Watch the painting’s official title is The Company of captain Frans Banning Cocq and lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch preparing to march out (De compagnie van kapitein Frans Banning Cocq en lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburgh maakt zich gereed om uit te marcheren). Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn painted this 4,37 m x 3,63 m painting between 1639-1642. It is painted in oil colours on canvas.
The company of The Night Watch is a city guard of a quarter in Amsterdam. From Medieval to the Golden Age there were many Companies (Dutch: Schutterijen or Compagnies) formed by volunteers. They protected the city from thieves and chaos. At that time only the Royals, Nobles & the Riches could afford a painter. The company asked Rembrandt who lived in the same quarter where the company was settled, to paint them. All 18 men in the painting paid Rembrandt more than 100 Guilders each. Imagine how much it was, when the drummer (far right) only earned 40 Guilders a month! Later after completing this work Rembrandt bought a big house.
In The Golden Age when a group of people was painted, the one who paid the most was pictured at the front. On The Night Watch Captain Frans Banning Cocq is the one in black wearing a red sash with Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch next to him. Other company members were set as a background. Some disapproved the painting as they were not clearly pictured on it.
Why The Night Watch
Due to Rembrandt’s painting technique called claire obscur (dark & light) implemented on this work, people thought the scene was painted in the night hence the nickname The Night Watch was born. Actually Rembrandt projected more light on Banning Cocq & Van Ruytenburch creating contrast between dark and light. Some experts stated that The Night Watch is not Rembrandt’s best artwork. Maybe they are right but art depends on the ones who see it, isn’t it? The fact is that The Night Watch is identical to Rijksmuseum just like Monalisa to Louvre.
The day after The Night Watch was placed to its original venue, a flash mob about The Night Watch appeared in a mall in Breda, a city in the south of The Netherlands. It was presented as Onze helden zijn terug (Our heroes are back) by ING bank, main sponsor of Rijksmuseum.
Rijksmuseum uses social media cleverly, sending updates & counting down to the reopening. Check @rijksmuseum out for more interactions. I can hardly wait to admire the newly renovated Rijksmuseum from the inside and plan to come there somewhere in June or July. When you happen to be in Amsterdam, visit this tremendous museum to meet The Company in all its glory. You can easily combine Rijksmuseum & Van Goghmuseum in one day for the highlights of their collection.