New hi-tech night watch photo puts Rembrandt in the eye

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Rembrandt van Rijn’s iconic and huge painting “The Night Watch” is now also an oversized museum photo delivered straight to your laptop with unparalleled detail.

Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum posted on its digital portal on Monday what it called “the most detailed photograph of all works of art,” ready for review by scientists and art lovers. It is expected to generate widespread interest, especially since the museum is closed due to the coronavirus measures.

The 717 gigapixel photo, for example, allows viewers to zoom in on Captain Frans Banninck Cocq and see how the 17th century master put the smallest of white dots in his eyes to bring the main character to life. It also shows off the tiny cracks in its pupils as the painting faces the test of time.

The real canvas measures 379.5 x 453.5 centimeters (149.4 x 178.5 inches) and each pixel represents 5 micrometers or 0.005 square millimeters.

Besides just showing the dazzling detail, it will also help researchers restore the artwork and assess its aging process over time.

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

The oil painting on canvas depicts a civilian militia from Amsterdam and shows Rembrandt’s renowned use of light and composition to create a dynamic scene filled with figures.

The painting has undergone many restorations during its life. It was placed on its current wooden frame in 1975. Once the painting has been reassembled, the museum will decide if further restoration work is necessary.


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