Where to see it
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
Why we love it
In the S. XVII, the Baroque was the avant-garde of the time and Rembrandt with only 34 years became one of its greatest exponents, due to his total mastery of the technique, handling of details, introducing action into painting through the gestures of the characters and the unprecedented manipulation of light influenced by Caravaggio.
The Night Watch, his largest and most famous painting, was commissioned to represent various members of the Amsterdam civic guard. Rembrandt was the first to represent the figures in a group portrait in action and not static as had been done until then.
The initial name was so long and impossible to remember, The Military Company of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburgh, that the painting ended up being called The Night Watch, although the scene takes place during the day, and has darkened by varnishes and dirt from the paint until it has been restored.
The 18 members of the company had their portraits paid for, along with some extras that Rembrandt introduced to animate the scene, such as the mysterious girl with the big white chicken that could be the painter’s wife, or the one who wears a beret on the side of back that appears to be Rembrandt himself.
In 1715 the work was transferred to the Amsterdam City Hall, but its size was so large that they had to cut a part above and on the left side, losing two of the characters.
The Rijksmuseum has done an incredible job of restoration and today there is an idea of what it looked like due to previous replicas of the work, and preparatory sketches have been discovered where the many attempts of the artist to achieve the correct composition have been appreciated.
The Night Watch, which was actually daytime, is still a work that never ceases to surprise.