AMSTERDAM — Researchers and restorers at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum launched a months-long project Monday, using high-tech imaging technology to throw new light on Rembrandt van Rijn’s iconic “Night Watch.”
Working in a specially designed glass chamber, researchers at the museum are undertaking a painstaking examination and restoration of the huge portrait of a 17th-century civil militia.
Art lovers around the world can follow the project online.
“This is the first time that we can actually make a full body scan and that we can discover which pigments he used not only through making little samples but with scanning the entire surface,” said the museum’s general director, Taco Dibbits.
“We don’t know much about how Rembrandt made this painting. And now we hope to discover more and really get a glimpse into the kitchen of the artist,” he added.
The 1642 painting last underwent significant restoration 40 years ago after it was slashed by a knife-wielding man and is starting to show blanching in parts of the canvas.
The painting has undergone many retouches and restorations in the past, and some of the later additions are starting to fade.
Before the latest restoration can begin, experts will photograph and scan the painting to evaluate its condition.
They will build up a detailed digital picture by merging 12,000 separate images as well as using X-ray technology to peer through the surface.
On Monday, a macro X-ray fluorescence scanner began taking a series of images, said Petria Noble, head of paintings conservation at the Rijksmuseum.
“Each type of technique will give us some information that we then need to put together and interpret all the information together and what that means for the painting.” Noble said.
More than 2 million people each year visit the Rijksmuseum, which has the world’s largest collection of Rembrandt works. The Golden Age master is known for his innovative use of light and rebellious compositions.
The restoration project comes in a year that marks the 350th anniversary of the artist’s death in 1669 and is part of a “Year of Rembrandt” at the museum.