Rijksmuseum Begins Live Restoration of Rembrandt’s Masterpiece "The Night Watch"

Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum has launched an unprecedented restoration project of Rembrandt's The Night Watch and the process is live-streamed online. The painting, which has been residing in the museum since 1808, will remain on display at its usual spot but protected by a glass wall as experts noticed blanching in some areas of the canvas. 

The project, titled "Operation Night Watch", aims to dive into the history of the masterpiece, investigating Rembrandt's techniques and analysing the impact of previous restorations in order to come up with the best treatment plan for the painting. More than twenty Rijksmuseum scientists, conservators, curators, and photographers are involved.

The canvas was commissioned in around 1639 by Captain Banning Cocq and completed in 1642. As the work measures at 3.63 by 4.37 metres and weighs 337 kilograms, the restoration project will cost €3m (US$3.36m) and is expected to take about a year, according to the museum. 

This is the first time in over 40 years since the painting has been restored. In 1975, the painting was slashed by an unemployed school teacher who suffered from mental illnesses using a bread knife, leaving several cuts up to 12 inches long. Previously, the work was attacked by a knife in 1911 and sprayed with acid in 1990. According to the museum, the painting has been treated around 25 times. 

With more than two and a half million people visiting the painting each year, the museum felt that it would be most appropriate to showcase the restoration process. General Director Taco Dibbits said in the launch on Monday that the painting "belongs to everybody who lives in the Netherlands, and the world" and the public has the right to see what happens to that painting.