A restored Rembrandt in front of the public

For several years, millions of visitors to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam will be able to see the historic restoration begun on Monday of Rembrandt’s famous “Ronde de nuit”, placed in a glass case right in the middle of the gallery of honor of the Museum.
The restoration of the immense painting, which dates from 1642, is also broadcast on the Internet so that the whole world can attend.

The work, which is 3.8 meters high by 4.5 meters wide and weighs 337 kilos, “belongs to everyone” and “we believe that the public has the right to see what we do with painting, “said museum director Taco Dibbits.

Slashed with a knife

The last major restoration of the work dates back more than 40 years, after an attack in 1975 by an imbalance who had slashed it with stabbings. Since then, experts have noted the appearance of a white halo on some parts of the painting, especially around the area damaged by stabbing, discolouring the representation of a small dog in the lower right.

Restoring to the monumental canvas all its brilliance and splendor: this is the delicate task entrusted by the Amsterdam museum to a small army of 25 scientists, conservators, curators and researchers. Long work, because the first brushstrokes to restore the original colors are not for now.

The experts first examine the painting with high-resolution photographs and digitized analyzes of the canvas and each layer of varnish and paint, before determining the best restoration techniques.

“The research phase will last about a year. Then we can develop a treatment plan and this will be the next step in the restoration, “says AFP Petria Noble, director of the paint restoration department of the Rijksmuseum.

She and her team will be working for “many years” in the middle of the museum’s gallery of honor, a place spotted every day by thousands of visitors from around the world.

Stressful? “At first, certainly,” she says. “But after a week, the team will be used to being watched. Because everyone is focused on the equipment they use or the paint.

“Operation Night Round”

Called “Operation Round Night”, the project, which costs several million euros, is a great first. This is the largest and most comprehensive research and restoration work of Rembrandt’s masterpiece in history, the museum said. Looking to the future and to future generations, the Rijksmuseum wishes to “preserve the best” the masterpiece.

The restorers work in a glass case specially created for the occasion and designed by the French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, who had already been entrusted with the layout of the rooms during the long renovation of the museum completed in 2013.

The Dutchman Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) received an order in 1642 from the captain of the Amsterdam bourgeois militia Frans Banninck Cocq to portray the officers and members of his militia.

In three and a half centuries, the painting has seen a series of moves or attempts at restoration and even escaped the Nazis.

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