The story of ‘The Night Watch’ (one of Rembrandt’s most famous works) is most interesting. The Dutch completed the painting, measuring 379.5 x 436 centimeters, between 1640 and 1642 and in 1715 it was moved to the Amsterdam City Hall (now the Royal Palace on Dam Square). The problem is that the painting was too big, so to make room for it they had the happy idea of cutting the edges. It was fit then, but a good piece of art was lost in the process.
The painting can be seen today in the Rijksmuseum, but of course, it is incomplete. We know what it’s like thanks to a pre-cut copy attributed to Gerrit Ludens. Today, 300 years later, and thanks to this copy and artificial intelligence, the work has been completely rebuilt keeping the Rembrandt style.
Edges missing, bring in the AI
This project undertaken by the Rijksmuseum (among other actors) has a name: “The Night Watch”. It is, in the museum’s words, the “largest and most far-reaching research project ever conducted on Rembrandt’s work.” Started in summer 2019 and it has finally paid off.
In the process 51 TB of data collected of the different imaging techniques used to study painting. MA-XRF scanning, near infrared image spectroscopy (NIR, images in more than 500 different wavelengths), visible light photography (5 µm resolution) and 3D scanning with structured light (15 µm resolution) have been used. ), among other techniques.
The Lundens copy.
All of that data, as well as Ludens’s copy, were used to train a neural network to emulate Rembrandt’s colors, brushstrokes and techniques to rebuild the cut edges. In this way, Rembrant’s painting is complete again. Visitors to the museum will be able to see it in all its glory thanks to the fact that these borders have been printed and placed around the painting.
In the image you can see the details lost in the cropped version.
And what differences are there? Not exactly few. In the rebuilt version we can see three figures on a bridge (two militiamen and a little boy) on the left. Also, we now know that the little boy I was clinging to a balustrade. The central figures, Frans Bannink Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch, have been slightly shifted to the right. Also the helmet of the militiaman on the right looks better.
To give us an idea, if the cut out painting has dimensions of 379.5 x 436 cm, the reconstruction is 393.1 x 507.4. Have been added 64.4 centimeters to the left, 7 centimeters to the right, 23.3 centimeters above and 11.3 centimeters below. Now the painting, which can be seen reconstructed on the museum’s website, returns to what it was in 1642 thanks to artificial intelligence.
More information | Rijksmuseum