Rembrandt's Night Watch as you've never seen it: most detailed photo ever online

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has released an image of Rembrandt's Night Watch as never before seen: it is the highest definition photo ever.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has released the largest and most detailed photograph ever of the Night Watch, the 1640-1642 masterpiece by Rembrandt van Rijn (Leiden, 1606 - Amsterdam, 1669): thanks to this very high quality reproduction, it is possible to see the work as never before in digital format, exploring all the details, down to the minutest brushstrokes, and even seeing the pigment composition. The photograph is already available online.

The image was created by the Rijksmuseum’s team of photographers and is the result of a total of 528 exposures: the image is in fact a composition of 24 rows of 22 images each, digitally pasted together with the help of the latest image processing technology. The end result is a photograph of 44.8 gigapixels (or 44,804,687,500 pixels), with a pixel-to-pixel spacing of 20 micrometers (or 0.02 millimeters). These characteristics mean that the photo can be studied by art historians even from a distance, and can be monitored to learn about its state of preservation.

Meanwhile, operations of themajor restoration (the largest ever) on Rembrandt’s masterpiece are proceeding on the work: work on the first phase (that of analysis and study) resumed last May 13 after a two-month interruption, and scholars can work in an empty museum due to antivirus regulations (although in reality the study never stopped: in fact, researchers worked from home analyzing the data collected). The restoration site was then upgraded to comply with the medical and health safety standards imposed by the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment: therefore, researchers will have to keep a distance of one and a half meters from each other, and there cannot be more than two people working on the work at the same time.

The second phase of the intervention, namely the restoration of the painting, has been rescheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic: it was scheduled to begin in late summer 2020, but due to the slowdown of the work and the health situation that has not yet fully resolved, it was decided to postpone it until early 2021.

The restoration, study, and realization of the ultra-high resolution photography were made possible thanks to the support of donors: the main partner is AkzoNobel, and several others contributed, namely The Bennink Foundation, C.L. de Carvalho-Heineken, PACCAR Foundation, Piet van der Slikke & Sandra Swelheim, American Express Foundation, De Rooij family, Het AutoBinck Fonds, Segula Technologies, Dina & Kjell Johnsen, D. family. Ermia family, M. van Poecke family, Bruker Nano Analytics, Henry M. Holterman Fonds, Irma Theodora Fonds, Luca Fonds, Piek-den Hartog Fonds, Stichting Zabawas, Cevat Fonds, Johanna Kast-Michel Fonds, Marjorie & Jeffrey A. Rosen, Stichting Thurkowfonds, and the Night Watch Fund. All with the support of the Netherlands Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the City of Amsterdam, Founder Philips and main sponsors BankGiro Lottery, ING and KPN.

Pictured: Rembrant, The Night Watch (1640-1642; oil on canvas, 363 x 437 cm; Amsterdam, Rijksmuseum)

Rembrandt's Night Watch as you've never seen it: most detailed photo ever online
Rembrandt's Night Watch as you've never seen it: most detailed photo ever online