New high-tech photo brings Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ to a close

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Amsterdam — Rembrandt van Rijn’s iconic and monumental painting “The Night Watch” is now also a supersized museum photo delivered in unsurpassed detail to your laptop.

The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum on Monday posted what it called “the most detailed picture of any artwork” on its digital portal, ready for evaluation by scientists and art lovers alike. It is expected to attract widespread interest, especially since the museum is closed due to coronavirus measures.

The 717-gigapixel photo allows viewers to zoom in on Captain Frans Baninck Coke and see how the 17th-century master applied the tiniest white dots in his eye to give life to the painting’s main character. It also shows the small cracks that their students develop over time.

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The original canvas measures 379.5 x 453.5 cm (149.4 x178.5 in) and each pixel represents 5 micrometers, or 0.005 square millimeters.

In addition to showing only dazzling details, it will also help researchers restore the work and assess its aging process over time.

The Night’s Watch will be removed from its wooden stretcher in two weeks and placed on a new one to repel the ripples caused by the Rijksmuseum’s major renovations during 2003–2013 to house the world-famous painting in a temporary gallery.

The oil-on-canvas painting depicts a group of Amsterdam civil militias and shows Rembrandt’s famous use of light and composition to create a dynamic scene full of characters.

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The painting has gone through several restorations over its existence. It was placed on its current wooden stretcher in 1975. Once the painting has been enlarged again, the museum will decide whether further restoration work is needed.

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