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Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ Reunites With Lost Pieces In Massive Restoration
By Alexa Heah, 24 Jun 2021
Image via Jaroslav Moravcik / Shutterstock.com
With artificial intelligence becoming an essential tool in the art world, it is once again at the forefront, this time for restoring one of Rembrandt van Rijn’s largest and most famous paintings to its original size.
A lessser-known fact is that, 70 years after the renowned artist completed The Night Watch, the edges of the painting were snipped off. Now, thanks to AI, curators at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum – which previously released a 45-gigapixel digitization of the portrait – have added the missing pieces back into the 1642 work.
When the famed painting was moved from Amsterdam’s civil militia club house to the town hall, it couldn’t fit on the wall between the two doors, compelling someone to take a pair of scissors to the portrait to crop it.
The museum always knew Rembrandt’s original was incomplete, due to a smaller copy painted at the same time by Gerrit Lundens. Researchers and restorers spent nearly two years using high-tech scanners, x-rays, and digital photographs combined with a huge amount of data generated from Ludens’ copy to recreate the missing strips.
“We made an incredibly detailed photo of the Night Watch and through artificial intelligence or what they call a neural network, we taught the computer what color Rembrandt used in the Night Watch, which colors, what his brush strokes looked like,” museum Director Taco Dibbits told The Associated Press.
The AI’s machine-learning capabilities also allowed restorers to remove distortions in perspective present in Ludens’ copy, as the artist was seated at an angle when copying Rembrandt’s work. Now with the recreated strips attached to the painting, it gives the piece a different dynamic.
The Night Watch has two central characters, Captain Frans Bannick Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch, who are positioned in the middle in the incomplete painting. With the new strips added, particularly the strip on the left featuring two men, the main figures are now shifted from the center to the right.
“It really gives the painting a different dynamic,” Dibbits said. “And what it taught us is that Rembrandt never does what you expect.”
Take a look at how researchers and restorers at the museum recreated the missing pieces here.
[via The Associated Press, cover image via Jaroslav Moravcik / Shutterstock.com]
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