IBasically, this matter is incomprehensible, and it remains a mystery to this day: for three hundred years, one of the most famous paintings in the world has been incomplete, fragmented, and incomplete. Before the pandemic, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam had nearly 3 million visitors a year, and most of them probably had at least a brief knowledge of Rembrandt’s Night Watch. But not everyone will realize that they are standing in front of a work of art that was vigorously cut hundreds of years ago. The barbaric behavior we talked about today may have been a superficial victory of pragmatism over art at that time, and the eternal claims of art can be cut with simple scissors.
Rembrandt completed “The Night Watch” in 1642. This painting was commissioned for the Rifle Association, and they wanted to use it to decorate the new ballroom in the magnificent “Kloveniersdoelen” building. The painting was originally hung there with the works of six other archers. In 1715, the ensemble was disbanded and the “Night Watchman” was transferred to the former City Hall, which has served as the palace since 1808. Here, the “night watchman” should be placed in a room whose name sounds like a warning sign. Because the “small war committee room” is actually too small for the format Rembrandt chose for his work. The hanging space provided between the two doors was not enough. Instead, the painting was cut off on all sides with scissors or a knife instead of finding another place. The left margin loses the most. Since then, there has been 64.4 cm missing here. The overall format melts from 393.1 x 507.4 cm to 379.5 x 436 cm. It is not known who ordered the circumcision, who carried it out, whether it was the result of deliberations in the “small meeting room”, or spontaneously carried out. Since then, the chopped part of “Night Watcher” is nowhere to be seen.
Enter the Hall of Honor
Rembrandt died of poverty in 1669. As early as 1656, he was declared insolvent, his house and large collections had to be auctioned off, and the proceeds were not enough to repay the debt. His paintings were still coveted, but by the beginning of the 18th century, his reputation had been greatly reduced. It was not until the 19th century that Rembrandt gained the status of Dutch national painter, which led to the transfer of “The Night Watch” to the National Museum, which opened in 1885, as if triumphantly. Twenty-four men with this painting sang the national anthem as they entered the “Hall of Honor” in the museum.
Passing through the cathedral-like structure, the first chapel on the right will pass by Frans Hals’s “Happy Drinker” and a gorgeous still life painting by William Krassson Heda, and the diagonally opposite The other chapel is dedicated to displaying four works by Vermeer. The main altar of this religious work of art is Rembrandt’s “Night Watch”.
Two years ago, the National Museum launched the “Night Patrol”, which is the most comprehensive study of this painting so far. Among other things, the results of the latest research methods are used to provide information to artificial neural networks so that they can reconstruct the missing parts of the “night shift”. They are printed on the panel, and it is now expected to complete the frame and completion of the original painting in mid-September. From the contemporary replicas made by the painter Gerrit Lundens, who may represent Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, we can know what these missing parts look like. He is the person with the red belt in the center of the photo.
Who pays, is the point?
But as you can see now standing before the reconstruction, Rembrandt did not place Captain Cocq and the man next to him, Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburgh, in the center of his work, but placed them on the right side of the center. There are three more figures on the left edge. The Gunpowder Boy in the front left is holding on to the railing. The helmet of the shooter on the far right is now fully visible again, and the space above the flag has become higher. Rembrandt’s original composition looks less static, but more dynamic than the cropped version: the leaving situation.
About three months later, when the missing part was removed again, the officer wearing a red belt and his companion returned to the center of the picture. They probably contributed the largest share of the 1,600 guilders that Rembrandt collected from the riflemen.