Art & History

The Night Watch – Rembrandt van Rijn | Painting & Facts

The Night Watch – Rembrandt van Rijn | Painting & Facts

The Night Watch, is a 1642 painting by Rembrandt van Rijn. It is in the collection of the Amsterdam Museum but is prominently displayed in the Rijksmuseum as the best known painting in its collection. The Night Watch is one of the most famous Dutch Golden Age paintings and is window 16 in the Canon of Amsterdam.

Night Watch - Rembrandt

Facts About Painting

  • ITS ALTERNATE TITLES ARE MUCH LONGER AND MORE SPECIFIC. 

    There are several, including: Officers and Other Civic Guardsmen of District II of Amsterdam, under the command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq and Lieutenant Willem vanRuytenburchMilitia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq; and The Shooting Company of Frans Banninck Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch.While the details vary, the key thing was that Cocq (wearing a red sash) and Ruytenburch (in yellow beside Cocq) get their recognition. Still, it’s little wonder the nickname The Night Watchcaught on. 

  • THE NIGHT WATCH IS NOT SET AT NIGHT. 

    Over the next hundred years, the nickname Night Watch became more popular than the painting’s cumbersome monikers. However, Rembrandt’s painting was set in daytime. The dark background mistaken for night’s sky was actually a varnish turned dark with age and dirt. During a restoration in the 1940s, the varnish was removed, but the name stuck. 

  • IT’S A CELEBRATED EXAMPLE OF CHIAROSCURO. 

    Italian for “light-dark,” the term refers to works that play dramatically with shadow to create volume and a sense of three dimensions. 

  • THAT LITTLE BLONDE GIRL ISN’T MILITARY—SHE’S A MASCOT.

    This seemingly misplaced moppet carries a chicken with pronounced claws and a pistol called a klover. Both were symbols for the Kloveniers, Amsterdam’s civic guard, a guild that commissioned the painting for their meeting hall.

  • THE NIGHT WATCH BROKE FROM MILITARY PORTRAIT TRADITION. 

    Countless captains, colonels, and cadets had been painted in portraits of a static nature. Rembrandt broke from convention by showing his military men in apparent motion. 

  • IT’S BIGGER THAN YOU’D THINK … 

    In addition to being Rembrandt’s most famous painting, at nearly 12 feet by 14 feet, The Night Watch was also his largest one.

  • HE NIGHT WATCH HAS ITS OWN PERSONAL ESCAPE ROUTE. 

    Museum fires have caused the loss of great works of art, so Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum has gone to great lengths to protect Rembrandt’s masterpiece. To preserve The Night Watch in emergencies, the Rijksmuseum installed a trap door complete with escape slide in 1934. 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. George Totura

    March 29, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    Seeing it in person is a very moving experience. And as the article says, it is BIG.

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