The Night Watch, Rembrandt: Analysis, Meaning 3 828Раздел в процессе наполнения и корректировки
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The Night Watch by Rembrandt Interpretation of Dutch Baroque Militia Company Group Portrait MAIN A-Z INDEX
The Night Watch (detail) By Rembrandt.Regarded as one of theGreatest Paintings Ever.
ContentsDescription • Interpretation/Meaning of The Night Watch • Other Paintings by Rembrandt
Description Artist : Rembrandt (1606-69) Medium : Oil painting Genre : Portrait art Movement : Dutch Baroque Location : Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
For the meaning of other masterpieces, see: Famous Paintings Analyzed.
Art AppreciationTo evaluate paintings byDutch Baroque artistslike Rembrandt, seeour educational essays:Art Evaluation and also:How to Appreciate Paintings.
One of the greatest portrait paintings of the 17th century Dutch Baroque era, The Night Watch was executed by Rembrandt at the height of his career in Amsterdam. Originally called The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, it is a group portrait of a militia company, commissioned and paid for by the members concerned, and was intended for the Great Room of the Kloveniersdoelen (the Musketeers Assembly Hall). It was given its popular but misleading title in the late 18th-century, based on the false assumption that it depicted a nocturnal scene. In fact, its subdued lighting was caused by the premature darkening of its multi-layered varnish. The picture was a huge success at the time, not least because it turns a fairly humdrum subject into a dynamic work of art. Unlike other Baroque portraits of militia companies, which traditionally portrayed members lined up in neat rows or sitting at a banquet, Rembrandt’s painting shows the company fully equipped, ready for action, and about to march. The full title of the portrait, as recorded in the family album of Captain Banning Cocq, runs: "Captain Heer van Purmerlandt (Banning Cocq) orders his lieutenant, the Heer van laerderdingen (Willem van Ruytenburch), to march the company out." Marked by Rembrandt’s signature chiaroscuro and dramatic tenebrism, the work is among the most famous examples of 17th century Dutch painting. It hung in the Kloveniersdoelen in Amsterdam until 1715 when it was moved to the Town Hall; in 1808 it was transferred to the Rijksmuseum.
The Painting So famous a picture, which in the past has been almost as much abused as praised, has not surpringly triggered an immense amount of analysis, only some of which can be discussed here. Known for its colossal size (roughly 12 feet x 14 feet), the canvas – when compared to earlier copies, like the version (c.1650) by Gerrit Lundens, now in the National Gallery, London – has obviously been trimmed, probably when it was moved to the Town Hall in 1715. About 60 cm, incorporating two background figures and a baby, have been removed from the left side, and lesser amounts from the other three sides. This unbalances the composition (the arch in the background was originally nearer the center) and compresses the figures into too confined a space. In all twenty-six figures are now fully or partially visible, including three children (or dwarves) and small parts of five more figures can just be discerned in the background. To the right of the arch there is a shield, added later, bearing the name of eighteen of the persons portrayed. According to two of them, who gave evidence on Rembrandt’s behalf during the investigation into his financial affairs in 1658, he was paid a total of 1, 600 guilders – the sitters contributed an average of 100 guilders each, the sum varying with their prominence in the picture.
Inaccurate Title At least since the cleaning of the picture in 1946-7, it has been evident that the scene takes place in daylight, with the sun streaming down from the top left. A further cleaning completed in 1980 showed that the tones are predominantly cool. The traditional title The Nightwatch which dates from the late 18th century, is therefore incorrect but it would be absurdly pedantic to suggest changing it now.
Key Figures Demonstrating his mastery of sunlight and shade, Rembrandt leads the eye to the three key characters among the ensemble – the two officers in the centre (from whom the painting gets its original title), and the small girl in the centre left background. Behind them the company’s colours are carried by the ensign, Jan Visscher Cornelissen. The senior and central officer, Captain Franz Banning Cocq (1605-55), is dressed in black with a red sash. His Lieutenant, Willem Van Ruytenburch, is in pale yellow with a white sash, and carries a ceremonial lance.