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'The Night Watch': Major project to restore Rembrandt masterpiece gets underway in Amsterdam

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By Louise Miner  & Wolfgang Spindler
'The Night Watch': Major project to restore Rembrandt masterpiece gets underway in Amsterdam

A €3 million restoration of Rembrandt's 17th-century masterpiece “The Night Watch” has begun at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum.

The artwork, which dates from 1642, is too big to move and will remain in the museum. Visitors will be able to watch the restoration from behind a glass screen.

Painted over several years, "The Night Watch" was commissioned as a group portrait of an Amsterdam city militia and broke new ground by showing its subjects in action rather than as a static portrait.

Experts argue over whether it was intended as a night scene or whether it is simply perceived as such because of Rembrandt's use of shadows pierced by light.

'A huge challenge'

Petria Noble, head of paintings conservation at Rijksmuseum said the job is a huge challenge.

"Just in terms of photography, there'll be more than 12,000 images that will just make up one total image," Noble said.

"And then you can imagine that with each of the modalities with the chemical imaging that we're going to do, the correlation of all that data. So I think the huge challenge will be studying all that material, interpreting all that material and then trying to come to an understanding of actually what it means for the condition and the and how the picture was painted," Noble added.

Discover Rembrandt's techniques

"What we've seen with our last conservation of the two Rembrandt full-length portraits that we acquired with France," said Taco Dibbits, Rijksmuseum Director, "is that you can see very well with these techniques, which changes Rembrandt made."

"And we don't know much about how Rembrandt made this painting. And now we hope to discover more and really get a glimpse into the kitchen of the artist, " Dibbits added.

Watch online

You can watch the restoration works as they're carried out online.

Lynda West, a tourist from Australia, is looking forward to watching the way it's restored.

"This is the most exciting thing of all. It's actually to see how they restore it. We'll be going online and just seeing the details with which they do it. My husband is just fascinated with art restoration and he is now retired. We have time and we can access the internet - which is just amazing - to watch it. So that's our retirement project I think," said West.

This restoration project marks the 350th anniversary of the artist's death in 1669.

See the full report by clicking onto the player above.