The Night Watch revisited


Practically all art historians in the world who are familiar with the baroque period and the works of Rembrandt in particular, are aware of the fact that the famous masterpiece of Rembrandt known as the Night Watch has been trimmed on all sides. Especially on the left side of the painting where a section of 70 cm has been sliced off, in order to let the canvas fit into a space between two doors. Luckily the main part of the huge painting measuring now 363 x 437 cm remained unharmed and survived a time span of 289 years. However reduced in size the Night Watch can still be admired by the visitors of the Rijksmuseum today. The composition of the painting regrettably has been partially destroyed  in such a way, that two grown up persons seen en profil and the face of a child just looking straight at the beholder over the parapet on which the sergeant Reynier Engelen is seated are lost for ever due to the truncation in 1715 on the left side.

The painting is a group portrait of the Amsterdam civic-guard militia, who gave Rembrandt the commission in 1642 having themselves portrayed fully dressed in glamorous  fantasy outfit, in a theatrical pose. After its completion the Night Watch was hung in the civic-guard militia conference room adorned with the group portraits of the militia upper class members. Thereafter the painting has been relocated several times, and during the stay in the town hall of Amsterdam (now the Royal Palace) the tragic event of the trimming took place (1715). Thanks to good fortune a small scale copy of the composition in its entirety survived. The exactitude and the reliability of the copy can be checked by comparing the small scale copy by Lundens with the remaining painting by Rembrandt still depicting 31 persons. The comparison of the copy with the original Night Watch proves that the representation depicted in this copy and the original Night Watch are pretty much identical, in such a way that a meticulous restoration based on this very important and precious copy is thinkable.

The proposal of the artist Alfred Eikelenboom is exactly to put this into practice. He is considering the idea of the undertaking of the restoration as the product of his (AE) mind and therefore as a conceptual work of art. Everybody who is interested in the art of Rembrandt and in the magic masterpiece of Rembrandt, the Night Watch in particular should read the publication by Gary Schwarz, ‘The Night Watch’:
ISBN 904009554 x
Rijksmuseum  Dossiers
Waanders 2002.

In this attractive and well-documented publication, argumentation and motivation for a total and definitive restoration of the Night Watch can be found.

Alfred Eikelenboom evaluated his arguments and motivation in a A4 booklet of very limited edition to contact scholars students and art lovers.

A publication about the restoration of the Night Watch in which the motives and arguments are evaluated is an option.

Hopefully the reconstruction of the Night Watch will actually take place either to celebrate the four hundred year jubilee of Rembrandt’s birthday 15 July 2006 or at the reopening of the restored and renewed Rijksmuseum in 2013(?).