Rembrandt in full resolution to admire the smallest details of ‘The Night Watch’ | Technology


Approaching a painting to admire it is one of the gestures most watched by museum staff. With ribbons on the ground or laces, the spectator is forced to keep a distance to prevent damage. Now, with the help of new technologies, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam will allow the public to get as close as they wish, albeit virtually, to one of its emblematic works. The gallery has published a photograph of The night watch (1642), the famous painting by Rembrandt that represents almost by itself the Dutch Golden Age, composed of 8,439 images joined with the help of artificial intelligence with a resolution of 717 gigapixels (7,000 times more than mobile phones with the best cameras) . The result is the largest digital photograph of a painting ever made, expandable again and again thanks to a viewer that allows you to see any detail without distortion and follow the creative process of the artist.

The photograph, obtained in “maximum resolution”, acts as a “virtual microscope at the service of the public”, explains Rob Erdmann, senior scientist at the Rijksmuseum on the museum’s website. “It’s like touring the Grand Canyon and seeing the different geological layers,” he adds. The museums will be closed in the Netherlands at least until January 14 – the same as the rest of the non-essential services – and the photo has been posted on their website. From a technical point of view, the distance between two pixels is 5 micrometers (five thousandths of a millimeter). To create the image, more than 8.00 photos of 5.5 x 4.1 centimeters have been taken 13 centimeters from the fabric.

A laser sensor has adjusted the distance from the canvas for each of them. Then the color and focus have been reviewed, and finally they have been joined with the help of artificial intelligence to form a single large image that weighs a total of 5.6 terabytes (it would take 1,200 dvds to store it), according to the documents. from the Rijksmuseum itself. The photo is four times more accurate than the one presented in 2020 by the art room of the same painting, and will allow researchers and restorers to see how Rembrandt used the layers of paint. For Erdmann and his team, it has been a challenge that he describes as “unique in the world”.

For the viewer, tour The night watch it is equally exceptional. The canvas is 3.79 meters long by 4.36 meters high, and weighs, without frame, 170 kilos. In front of the computer, it is a surface that reveals its secrets as you go through it. Thickness dough applied to the clothing of Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburg, to the right of the viewer and wearing a feathered hat, it reaches the last fold without deforming. At some point, the mixture of blue and yellow shines almost like porcelain seen up close. Helmets and weapons also shine until the last click of the magnification. In the eye of the only woman represented, who could have the face of Saskia, the painter’s wife, there is a brush of eyelashes and she does not lose her expression. The lieutenant was a councilor of the Amsterdam City Council and in the painting he appears with Captain Frans Banninck Cocq. The latter is dressed in black. The dog, who is on the right and has lost much of its color, wears a collar, which is difficult to distinguish with the naked eye. Altogether, it is an absorbing journey through the skin of The Military Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburg, the original title.

The restoration of The night watch It will start on January 19, although the treatment has already started. The canvas will be embedded in a new frame because its upper left part had been deformed after being exhibited in another room between 2003 and 2013, during the museum’s renovation works. The so-called Operation Night Watch is the largest investigation carried out with the famous painting to preserve it for the future, and this December had already led to a discovery. The experts verified that there is a sketch under the definitive work, never seen before. It is the “chalk map of the canvas and its genesis,” according to Taco Dibbits, director of the Rijksmuseum.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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