The "Night Watch" is the main attraction of Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum and its gallery was specially designed to showcase Rembrandt's famous civic guard portrait. It is expected to be seen by more than 1.5million people every year after the Rijksmuseum's recent refurbishment.
Amsterdam – Been There

Why the most famous painting of western Europe is not for sale

Photo by Jurjen Drenth

Amsterdam – Been There Why the most famous painting of western Europe is not for sale

In the recently refurbished Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the star of the show is the 1642 ‘Night Watch’ by Rembrandt van Rijn.


Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

The official name of the painting is Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq. “A coat of very dark varnish, removed in the 1940s, led to it being called The Night Watch,” says art historian Marie Hoedemaker.

“But you can see by the shadows that the action is actually taking place in sunlight that highlights the three central figures. The varnish was applied later to hide Rembrandt’s brushwork which, like fellow Dutch artist Frans Hals’, is best appreciated from a distance.”

The Night Watch hasn’t survived the centuries undamaged. In 1715, the largest painting Rembrandt ever produced was cut down in size to fit in its new display space at the time; Amsterdam's Town Hall. It was attacked with a knife in the early 1900s, then in 1975 a man again slashed the canvas 12 times. Another acid attack followed in 1990. Fortunately, the painting’s heavy varnish has helped protect it so the skill of restorers can return the masterpiece to public view.

The painting was commissioned by the Civic Guard which is why the painting now belongs to Amsterdam’s local government. It will never be sold, so it is meaningless to put a value on it; it’s literally “priceless”. Like many other such paintings in national collections, there is also no reason to insure it as it makes more financial sense to spend the premiums on improving security.

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Amsterdam's Madame Tussauds showed this wax figure of Rembrandt van Rijn in his studio as part of a display on the Dutch Golden Age. This era, roughly covering the 17th century, was a time when Dutch trade with Asia brought back great wealth that was invested in the work of artists. Photo by Jurjen Drenth

Jurjen Drenth

Jurjen Drenth

Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II

Aperture
ƒ/5.6
Exposure
1/3
ISO
1600
Focal
18 mm

Amsterdam's Madame Tussauds showed this wax figure of Rembrandt van Rijn in his studio as part of a display on the Dutch Golden Age. This era, roughly covering the 17th century, was a time when Dutch trade with Asia brought back great wealth that was invested in the work of artists.

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