The Night Watch: to eat, to learn, to play! Things to do in front of the masterpiece
The Rijksmuseum is free to do with the celebrated painting by Rembrandt whatever it likes. Even to serve dinner to children in front of the masterpiece, as it happened in November 2017. What other liberties do the bold and creative, though vigilant, museum workers indulge in? And what is permissible for visitors? Below are some incriminating photos.
This might seem a hottest picture to be reposted and angrily commented: look, these children are allowed to have dinner in front of The Night Watch! Perhaps a mogul’s kid has invited friends for a birthday party?
Calm, be calm! In autumn of 2017, a series of healthy lifestyle events were held in Amsterdam. In particular, school students' healthy breakfasts (the so called National School Breakfasts) were concerned. One of the events took place in the museum, and this photo shoot is a brilliant example of visual propaganda, isn’t it? The popular Dutch singer Sanne Hans was cheering the children up, and, besides having the meal, they could see a dance show.
Photo from: twitter.com/missmontreal
The photo below, with the children who seem to be absorbed in their smartphones, keeps spreading throughout the web. It usually goes with comments on how low the morals of the youth are and how much the world is possessed by gadgets.
Actually, the photographer captured a group of students on an excursion — the very moment when they were using the museum’s mobile application to read about the masterpieces.
Photo by: Gijsbert van der Wal, 2014. From: twitter.com/wijdopenogen
Can one help being carried away by reading when they read about this outstanding artwork? ‘Rembrandt's largest, most famous canvas' — that is how it is described on the website of the Rijksmuseum where it is housed. It is, besides, one of the unluckiest masterpieces of old. Not only did a layer of sooty varnish alter the original colours — which resulted in a mistake about the hour at which the scene takes place, — the canvas was also trimmed on its horizontal and vertical sides, suffered from careless transportation and unskilful restoration work. To top it all, in 1990, a mentally sick visitor sprayed acid onto the picture. Few paintings can boast of losing so many features: the original colour, the size, as compared to the dimensions the artist meant it to have, some of the paint. For all that, it has remained a masterpiece, a sacred object to make a pilgrimage to, a source of ideas for book and film industry. A paradoxical reputation — and the picture keeps living up to it.
The traditional pastimes in Rijksmuseum are seeing the canvas, a selfie captured on a smartphone, a guided tour, and a search for Athos with the help of the canvas’s printed description.
The list of the soldiers of Frans Banning Cocq’s militia company has survived at the reverse side of the canvas. Anyone can now match the names with the faces in the picture. The Night Watch fans even compile special tables for the purpose (one should bear in mind, though, that Rembrandt took the liberty of adding fictitious characters to the composition to make it more dynamic). Photo from: www.city-discovery.com.
Yet one day, the museum upped and closed for renovation. And after ten years' pause, in 2013, when it opened its rooms again, not only was it reported that the arquebusiers were back home in the Rijksmuseum…
…but the characters were ‘brought to life' in a breath-taking show.
With the picture behind you, your speech will produce a most powerful effect. Being the US president is a chance to try it.
However, even an ordinary art teacher can have a posh dinner and stay overnight in the room where Rembrandt’s canvas is on display. Remember how they welcomed the Rijksmuseum’s ten millionth visitor?
Visitors have been counted since the renovated museum was opened in 2013. The Golden Ticket found its winner on 30 May 2017. The lucky visitor was Stefan Kasper, an art teacher and artist from Haarlem (a city in the west of the Netherlands). What a grand welcome he was given!
And you — what are you free to do? Well, you may take a brush and, instead of making a conventional selfie, paint a detailed scene of how you meet the Night Watch characters.
August Jernberg (1826−1896). Visitors in Front of Rembrandt’s Night Watch. 1885. Malmö Konstmuseum.
And in the museum shop, you will find an army of toy arquebusiers made of paper or plastic: great fun for reasonable prices. And be sure to get equipped with an umbrella and a pair of socks — or you will not be allowed to keep watch!
Lastly, any Internet user can download for free any artwork from the Rijksstudio collection on the museum’s website. Later, it can be an inspiration for their own piece of art when the museum announces a public competition in design — a good chance to win €10,000 in prize money.
Opening photo: Koen van Weel. From: artdaily.com
Artists mentioned in the article