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Night Watch (painting)

Night Watch (painting)

Overview
Night Watch or The Night Watch or The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq is the common name of one of the most famous works by Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 painter Rembrandt van Rijn.

The painting may be more properly titled The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch. It is on prominent display in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, being the best known painting in their collection.
The Night Watch is considered to be one of the most famous paintings in the world.

The painting is renowned for three elements: its colossal size (363 x 437 cm ~ 11ft 10in x 14ft 4in), the effective use of light and shadow (chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro in art is "an Italian term which literally means 'light-dark'. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted"....

), and the perception of motion in what would have been, traditionally, a static military portrait.

This painting was completed in 1642, at the peak of the Dutch Golden Age
Dutch Golden Age painting
Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history generally spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years War for Dutch independence. The new Dutch Republic was the most prosperous nation in Europe, and led European trade,...

.
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Encyclopedia
Night Watch or The Night Watch or The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq is the common name of one of the most famous works by Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 painter Rembrandt van Rijn.

The painting may be more properly titled The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch. It is on prominent display in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

, being the best known painting in their collection.
The Night Watch is considered to be one of the most famous paintings in the world.

Key elements


The painting is renowned for three elements: its colossal size (363 x 437 cm ~ 11ft 10in x 14ft 4in), the effective use of light and shadow (chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro in art is "an Italian term which literally means 'light-dark'. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted"....

), and the perception of motion in what would have been, traditionally, a static military portrait.

This painting was completed in 1642, at the peak of the Dutch Golden Age
Dutch Golden Age painting
Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history generally spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years War for Dutch independence. The new Dutch Republic was the most prosperous nation in Europe, and led European trade,...

. It depicts the eponymous company
Schutterij
Schutterij refers to a voluntary city guard or citizen militia in the medieval and early modern Netherlands, intended to protect the town or city from attack and act in case of revolt or fire. Their training grounds were often on open spaces within the city, near the city walls, but, when the...

 moving out, led by Captain Frans Banning Cocq
Frans Banning Cocq
Knight Frans Banning Cocq was a burgemeester of Amsterdam in the mid-17th century. He is best known as the central figure in Rembrandt's masterpiece The Night Watch....

 (dressed in black, with a red sash) and his lieutenant, Willem van Ruytenhurch (dressed in yellow, with a white sash). With effective use of sunlight and shade, Rembrandt leads the eye to the three most important characters among the crowd, the two gentlemen in the centre (from whom the painting gets its original title), and the small girl in the centre left background. Behind them the company's colours are carried by the ensign, Jan Visscher Cornelissen.

Rembrandt has displayed the traditional emblem of the Arquebusiers in the painting in a natural way: the girl in yellow dress in the background is carrying the main symbols. She is a kind of mascot herself: the claws of a dead chicken on her belt represent the clauweniers (arquebusiers); the pistol behind the chicken stands for 'clover'; and, she is holding the militia's goblet. The man in front of her is wearing a helmet with an oak leaf, a traditional motif of the Arquebusiers. The dead chicken is also meant to represent a defeated adversary. The colour yellow is often associated with victory.

Alterations to original


For much of its existence, the painting was coated with a dark varnish which gave the incorrect impression that it depicted a night scene, leading to the name by which it is now commonly known. This varnish was removed only in the 1940s.

In 1715, upon its removal from the Kloveniersdoelen to the Amsterdam Town Hall, the painting was cut down on all four sides. This was done, presumably, to fit the painting between two columns, an all too common practice before the 19th century. This resulted in the loss of two characters on the left-hand side of the painting, the top of the arch, the balustrade, and the edge of the step. This balustrade and step were key visual tools used by Rembrandt to give the painting a forward motion. A 17th century copy of the painting by Gerrit Lundens at the National Gallery, London shows how it looked originally.

Painting's commission


The painting is said to have been commissioned by the Captain and 17 members of his Kloveniers (civic militia guards), and although 18 names appear on a shield in the centre right background, the drummer was hired, and so was allowed in the painting for free. A total of 34 characters appear in the painting. Rembrandt was paid 1,600 guilders for the painting (each person paid one hundred), a large sum at the time. This was one of a series of seven similar paintings of the militiamen commissioned during that time under various artists.

The painting was commissioned to be hung in the banquet hall of the newly built Kloveniersdoelen (Musketeers' Meeting Hall) in Amsterdam. Some have suggested that the occasion for Rembrandt's commission and the series of other commissions given to other artists was the visit of the French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 queen, Marie de Medici, in 1638. Even though she was escaping at the time from her exile from France by her son Louis XIII
Louis XIII of France
Louis XIII was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1610 to 1643.Louis was only eight years old when he succeeded his father. His mother, Marie de Medici, acted as regent during Louis' minority...

 her arrival was met with great pageantry.

Location


The Night Watch was first hung in the Kloveniersdoelen in Amsterdam in the Groote Zaal (Great Hall). This is now known as the Doelen Hotel. In 1715 it was moved to the Amsterdam town hall, for which it was altered. When Napoleon occupied the Netherlands, the town hall became the Palace on the Dam
Royal Palace (Amsterdam)
The Royal Palace in Amsterdam is one of three palaces in the Netherlands which is at the disposal of Queen Beatrix by Act of Parliament. The palace was built as city hall during the Dutch Golden Age in the seventeenth century. The building became the royal palace of king Louis Napoleon and later...

. The magistrates moved the painting to the Trippenhuis of the family Trip. Napoleon ordered it back, but after the occupation the painting was moved to the Trippenhuis again, which had now become the Dutch Academy of Sciences, and was moved to the new Rijksmuseum building when it was finished in 1885.
The painting was moved in September 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. The canvas was detached from its frame and rolled around a cylinder. The rolled painting was stored in a castle in Medemblik
Medemblik
Medemblik is a municipality and a town in the Netherlands, in the province of North Holland and the region of West-Frisia.- History :...

, north of Amsterdam. After the end of the war, the canvas was unrolled, re-mounted and restored; and then the Night Watch returned to its rightful place in the Rijksmuseum.

On Dec. 11, 2003, The Night Watch started its move to a temporary location, due to a major refurbishment of the Rijksmuseum. The painting was detached from its frame, wrapped in stain-free paper, put into a wooden frame which was put into two sleeves, driven on a cart to its new destination, hoisted up, and brought into his new home through a special slit.

While the refurbishment takes place, The Night Watch can be observed from its temporary location in the Philipsvleugel of the Rijksmuseum. When the refurbishment is finished in 2013, the painting will be returned to its original place in the Nachtwachtzaal (Dutch for "Room of the Night Watch").

Popular reception


A persistent misconception has it that Rembrandt's decline in popularity was due to a negative public reception of the painting. The myth has even made its way into modern advertising; in 1967 KLM featured the painting in an advertisement which said "See Night Watch, Rembrandt's spectacular 'failure' (that caused him to be) hooted... down the road to bankruptcy". The myth has no reasonable origin: there is no record of criticism of the painting in Rembrandt's lifetime, and Captain Cocq even had a watercolor made of it for his personal album.

The decline in the artist's popularity was likely due not to reaction to any one painting, but to a broader change in taste. During the 1640s wealthy patrons began to prefer the bright colors and graceful manner that had been initiated by such painters as the Flemish portraitist Anthony van Dyck
Anthony van Dyck
Sir Anthony van Dyck was a Flemish Baroque artist who became the leading court painter in England. He is most famous for his portraits of Charles I of England and his family and court, painted with a relaxed elegance that was to be the dominant influence on English portrait-painting for the next...

.

Acts of vandalism


The work was attacked with a bread knife by an unemployed school teacher, Wilhelmus de Rijk, in 1975, resulting in a large zig-zag of slashes. It was successfully restored but some evidence of the damage is still observable close-up. De Rijk committed suicide in April 1976.

In 1990, a man sprayed acid onto the painting with a concealed pump bottle. Security guards intervened and water was quickly sprayed onto the canvas. Luckily, the acid had only penetrated the varnish layer of the painting and it was fully restored.

Cultural legacy

  • The work has inspired musical works in both the classical and rock traditions, including the second movement of Gustav Mahler
    Gustav Mahler
    Gustav Mahler was a late-Romantic Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. He was born in the village of Kalischt, Bohemia, in what was then Austria-Hungary, now Kaliště in the Czech Republic...

    's 7th Symphony
    Symphony No. 7 (Mahler)
    Gustav Mahler's Seventh Symphony was written in 1904-05, with repeated revisions to the scoring. It is sometimes referred to by the title Song of the Night , though this title was not Mahler's own and he disapproved of it. Although the symphony is often described as being in the key of 'E minor,'...

    , the lyrics of King Crimson
    King Crimson
    King Crimson are a rock band founded in London, England in 1969. Often categorised as a foundational progressive rock group, the band have incorporated diverse influences and instrumentation during their history...

    's "The Night Watch" by Richard Palmer-James
    Richard Palmer-James
    Richard Jeffrey Charles Palmer-James was lyricist for the progressive rock group King Crimson in the early 1970s....

    , and Ayreon
    Ayreon
    Ayreon is a project by Dutch composer and musician Arjen Anthony Lucassen.Ayreon's musical style derives mostly from heavy metal and progressive rock, but combines them with genres like folk, classical and electronica...

    's "The Shooting Company of Captain Frans B. Cocq" from Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer
    Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer
    Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer is a progressive rock album released in 2000 by Dutch multi-instrumentalist Arjen Lucassen, and is the fourth album of his Ayreon project....

    .
  • Alexander Korda
    Alexander Korda
    Sir Alexander Korda was a Hungarian-born British producer and film director. He was a leading figure in the British film industry, the founder of London Films and the owner of British Lion Films, a film distributing company.-Life and career:The elder brother of filmmakers Zoltán Korda and Vincent...

    's 1936 biographical film Rembrandt depicts the painting, shown in error in its truncated form, as a failure at its completion, perceived as lampooning its outraged subjects.
  • In Jean-Luc Godard
    Jean-Luc Godard
    Jean-Luc Godard is a French-Swiss film director, screenwriter and film critic. He is often identified with the 1960s French film movement, French Nouvelle Vague, or "New Wave"....

    's 1982 film, Passion
    Passion (1982 film)
    Passion is a 1982 film by Jean-Luc Godard, and the second feature film made during his return to relatively mainstream filmmaking in the 1980s, sometimes referred to as the Second Wave...

    , The Night Watch is reenacted with live actors in an opening shot. Godard explicitly compares his film to Rembrandt's painting, describing them both as "full of holes and badly-filled spaces." He instructs the viewer not to focus on the overall composition, but to approach his film as one would a Rembrandt and "focus on the faces."
  • The Night Watch is a major plot device in the eponymous 1995 film, Night Watch
    Night Watch (1995 film)
    Night Watch is a 1995 American television spy film directed by David Jackson starring Pierce Brosnan and Alexandra Paul. The film, also known as Alistair MacLean's Nightwatch, was shot in Hong Kong....

    . In the film the painting is stolen.
  • The Night Watch is the subject of a 2007 film by director Peter Greenaway
    Peter Greenaway
    Peter Greenaway, CBE is a British film director. His films are noted for the distinct influence of Renaissance and Baroque painting, and Flemish painting in particular...

     called Nightwatching
    Nightwatching
    Nightwatching is a 2007 film about the artist Rembrandt and the creation of his painting The Night Watch. The film is directed by Peter Greenaway and stars Martin Freeman as Rembrandt, with Eva Birthistle as his wife Saskia van Uylenburg, Jodhi May as his lover Geertje Dircx, and Emily Holmes as...

    , in which the film posits a conspiracy within the musketeer regiment of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, and suggests that Rembrandt may have immortalized a conspiracy theory using subtle allegory in his group portrait of the regiment, subverting what was to have been a highly prestigious commission for both painter and subject. His 2008 film Rembrandt's J'accuse
    Rembrandt's J'Accuse
    Rembrandt's J'Accuse is a 2008 Dutch, German, Finnish documentary directed by Peter Greenaway about criticism of today's visual illiteracy argued by means of a forensic search of Rembrandt's Night Watch painting. Greenaway explains the conspiracy about a murder and the motives of all its characters...

    is a sequel or follow-on, and covers the same idea, using extremely detailed analysis of the compositional elements in the painting; in this Greenaway describes The Night Watch as (currently) the fourth most famous painting in the Western world, after the Mona Lisa
    Mona Lisa
    Mona Lisa is a portrait by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. It is a painting in oil on a poplar panel, completed circa 1503–1519...

    , the Last Supper
    Last Supper
    The Last Supper is the final meal that, according to Christian belief, Jesus shared with his Twelve Apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The Last Supper provides the scriptural basis for the Eucharist, also known as "communion" or "the Lord's Supper".The First Epistle to the Corinthians is...

     and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
    Sistine Chapel
    Sistine Chapel is the best-known chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City. It is famous for its architecture and its decoration that was frescoed throughout by Renaissance artists including Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio...

    . It is also shown as hanging in the main room of the restaurant in another Greenaway film The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover.

New LED illumination in 2011

  • 26 October 2011, the Rijksmuseum unveiled new, sustainable LED lighting  for the Night Watch. With technology ever advancing, it is the first time LED lighting is able to render the fine nuances of the painting's complex color palette. The lighting is developed by Philips Lighting and was inaugurated by Rijksmuseum Director Wim Pijbes and Philips President and CEO Frans van Houten. Rogier van der Heide
    Rogier van der Heide
    Rogier van der Heide is a designer based in The Netherlands, who has contributed to public and commercial places all over the world.-Life:...

    , Chief Design Officer at Philips Lighting, was responsible for the design.
  • The new illumination uses LED lights with a color temperature of 3,200 Kelvin, similar to warm-white light sources such as tungsten halogen. It has a color rendering index of over 90, which makes it suitable for the illumination of artifacts such as the Night Watch. Using the new LED lighting, the museum saves 80% on energy and offers the painting a safer environment due to the absence of UV radiation and heat.

Other representations


  • A bronze-cast representation of the famous painting was exposed in Rembrandtplein
    Rembrandtplein
    Rembrandtplein is a major square in central Amsterdam, the Netherlands. It is named after the famous painter Rembrandt van Rijn....

     in Amsterdam in 2006-2009.
  • The only full-sized replica in the Western world is displayed by the Canajoharie Library & Art Gallery, in Canajoharie, New York
    Canajoharie, New York
    Canajoharie, New York may refer to:* Canajoharie , New York* Canajoharie , New York...

    , donated to the library in the early 20th century by the library's founder, Bartlett Arkell.
  • The front cover of the British edition of Terry Pratchett
    Terry Pratchett
    Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE is an English novelist, known for his frequently comical work in the fantasy genre. He is best known for his popular and long-running Discworld series of comic fantasy novels...

    's novel Night watch is a parody of this painting, the original appears on the back cover (not in the paperback version).
  • The painting is obtainable in the Animal Crossing
    Animal Crossing
    The Animal Crossing games have garnered positive response. The first three games are among the best-selling for their respective consoles. Animal Crossing has sold 2.321 million copies; Wild World 10.79 million; and City Folk 3.38 million...

    series of video games as the "Amazing Painting".

External links