New hi-tech photo brings Rembrandt’s Night Watch up close

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Rembrandt, Operation Night Watch, Europe, Amsterdam
The start of Operation Night Watch. Photo courtesy Rijksmuseum.

Rembrandt van Rijn’s iconic and huge painting The Night Watch is now also a supersized museum photo delivered right to your laptop in unsurpassed detail.

The Amsterdam Rijksmuseum on Monday put on its digital portal what it called “the most detailed photograph of any artwork” ready for assessment by scientists and art lovers alike.

It is expected to draw widespread interest especially since the museum is closed because of coronavirus measures.

The 717-gigapixel photo allows viewers to zoom in on Captain Frans Banninck Cocq and see how the 17th-century master put the tiniest of white dots in his eyes to give life to the painting’s main character.

It also shows the minute cracks in his pupils, brought on by the passage of time.

The real canvas measures 379.5cm x 453.5cm and each pixel represents five micrometres or 0.005 square millimetres.

Apart from simply showing the dazzling detail, it will also help researchers restore the work and assess its ageing process over time.

The Night Watch will be removed from its wooden stretcher in two weeks and placed on a new one to remove rippling that was caused when the world-famous painting was housed in a temporary gallery while the Rijksmuseum underwent major renovations from 2003-2013.

The oil-on-canvas painting depicts a group of Amsterdam civil militia and shows off Rembrandt’s renowned use of light and composition to create a dynamic scene filled with characters.

The painting has undergone many restorations over its existence. It was placed on its present wooden stretcher in 1975. Once the painting has been restretched, the museum will decide whether further restoration work is needed.

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