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Art Library keeps ‘Watch’ over Rembrandt restoration

Rembrandt's Night WatchThis year marks the 350th anniversary of the death of Rembrandt van Rijn, one of the most extraordinary artists of the Dutch Golden Age. Although Rembrandt was an accomplished draughtsman and etcher, he is best known for his paintings. His dark, moody canvases and arresting self-portraits are instantly recognizable, the rough brushwork seeming to invest his subjects with hidden drama. While his prints and paintings are in museums worldwide, the most notable collection is—unsurprisingly—in Amsterdam’s Rijksmusuem.

Among the Rembrandt paintings in their collection is his most famous work, Civic Guardsmen of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, known as the ‘Night Watch,’ and more commonly known as simply “The Night Watch.” Painted between 1640 and 1642, it depicts one of the civic militia companies of Amsterdam. Rather than paint a conventional group portrait, however, Rembrandt’s genius was to depict them in action, an animated collection of civic guardsmen that enliven the painting.

The canvas has led almost as exciting a life as its subjects. Over the centuries, it has been cut down in size, vandalized in knife and acid attacks, and survived WWII rolled up and hidden deep in a cave. This year, the Rijksmuseum has announced a major project to coincide with the anniversary of Rembrandt’s death. Beginning this month, the painting has moved to a purpose-built glass chamber in the museum. There, it will undergo the most comprehensive examination and restoration in its history, all streamed live from the Rijksmuseum.

The Art Library is following the stream in the Deering third floor lobby, accompanied by a selection of titles on Rembrandt and art conservation. We invite you to stop by for this once in a lifetime event.