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AkzoNobel Releases Update on Rembrandt Restoration

Friday, February 21, 2020

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The partnership of global coatings company AkzoNobel and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam released an update regarding the restoration of Rembrandt’s masterpiece “The Night Watch.”

AkzoNobel and the Rijksmuseum say that they have now identified three key areas to focus on as the collaboration starts to gather pace.

Project History

The entities announced the partnership last summer, and work on the 377-year-old painting began on July 8.

“The Rijksmuseum continually monitors the condition of The Night Watch, and we’ve discovered that changes are occurring, such as blanching on the figure of the dog in the lower right of the painting,” said General Director of the Rijksmuseum, Taco Dibbits.

“To gain a better understanding of its condition as a whole, the decision has been taken to conduct a thorough examination. So, we’re extremely grateful to AkzoNobel, as the work that’s being carried out with their support is vital.”

The partnership of global coatings company AkzoNobel and the Rijksmuseumin Amsterdam released an update regarding the restoration of Rembrandt’s masterpiece “The Night Watch.”

Working encased in a glass chamber (to keep the painting displayed for the museum), the team said that it will first take about 11,400 high resolution photographs of the painting. Then, special scanners will look at cracks and crevices while a laser examines the pigments. The hope is that all of those images will give workers what they need to proceed.

AkzoNobel called the undertaking “the most innovative restoration in the history of art.”

The process seeks to answer questions such as: How was the painting made? What was the original appearance of the painting intended by Rembrandt? What is the current condition of The Night Watch? What type of paint alterations have taken place and why?

“We’re about to rock the world of paintings conservation and do things that have never been attempted before,” said Robert van Langh, the Rijksmuseum’s Head of Conservation and Science.

“First of all, we need to find out what we’re up against. With a partner like AkzoNobel on board, we’re confident we’ll take our understanding of paint to the next level—and I don’t just mean one level, I’m talking three or four levels.”

What Now

Scientists from both parties have revealed the following key areas that they’ll be focusing on for the next two years:

  • Recreating Rembrandt’s impastos (the technique of laying on paint so thickly that it stands out from the surface) - Understanding how Rembrandt created his famous impastos will involve gaining a better insight into the relationship between rheology (the study of the flow of matter in a liquid state or as a soft solid) and practical paint-application behavior. Three different pigmented impasto paints found in Rembrandt’s work will be selected and investigated from different perspectives.
  • Designing custom color calibration – This is to improve the photograph and digitization of the paining, which has become common issue with professional photographs of The Night Watch and other 17th century Dutch paintings. These images tend to show a consistent brightening of dark areas in the artworks, which misrepresents those paintings on photographs in museum catalogs and other publications, the entities said.
  • Improving the viewing experience – To help enhance the viewing experience of the painting, the plan is to analyze hyperspectral and spectroradiometer data and use physics-based simulations to propose changes in the local lighting that could be used to improve the visibility of the painting.

“This is an incredible opportunity for us to contribute our color expertise to an historic project,” said AkzoNobel’s Senior Color Scientist, Eric Kirchner. “The Night Watch is an iconic painting, not only in Dutch culture, but in the whole history of art. So being involved says a lot about us being the reference in the industry.”

Those interested can follow along with the restoration here.


Tagged categories: AkzoNobel; Decorative painting; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); EU; Maintenance + Renovation; Museums; Restoration

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (2/21/2020, 8:08 AM)

Another restoration uncovered an authentic Rembrandt: It had been varnished so thickly that it completely covered the impasto to give a smooth surface.

Comment from Tony Rangus, (2/21/2020, 10:11 AM)

Is the current glass chamber inerted?

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