Rembrandt remastered: More than 300 years after being trimmed, iconic Night Watch painting is back to its original size… with the help of AI
- Large chunks were sliced off the sides of one of Rembrandt’s greatest paintings
- The removed strips from The Night Watch were discarded and lost forever in 1715
- But art and artificial intelligence has enabled Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum to recreate the missing parts, restoring the work to what Rembrandt intended
It must rank as one of the worst acts of artistic vandalism in history.
Large chunks were sliced off the sides of one of Rembrandt’s greatest paintings in 1715 so the colossal canvas would fit a wall in what was then Amsterdam’s City Hall.
The removed strips from The Night Watch were discarded and lost forever.
But a marriage of art and artificial intelligence has enabled Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum to recreate the missing parts, restoring the work to what Rembrandt intended.
The full picture: Rembrandt’s famed Night Watch is seen back on display for the first time in 300 years, in what researchers say is its original size, with missing parts temporarily restored in an exhibition aided by artificial intelligence at Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam
The museum knew that the original painting, completed in 1642, was bigger, thanks to a smaller copy from the same time attributed to Gerrit Lundens.
Based on the copy, scientists used artificial intelligence to recreate the missing sections, which have been printed and now hang flush to the edges of the painting in the museum’s Honour Gallery.
The figures of two men and a boy have been reinstated on the left where a 2ft strip was removed. Smaller strips have been restored to the top, bottom and right.
‘It can breathe now,’ museum director Taco Dibbits said as he unveiled the work yesterday. ‘It’s very exciting to see.’
Restorers used scanners, X-rays and digital photography, combined with data they generated from the Lundens copy, to recreate the missing strips. A computer compared the original to the copy, and then mastered Rembrandt’s style.
The picture of Amsterdam’s civic guard has endured many indignities.
It was stabbed in 1911, hidden in a bunker during the Second World War, slashed in 1975 and sprayed with acid in 1990.