Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum has placed Rembrandt’s baroque masterpiece The Night Watch (1642) on public display as the museum begins an extensive restoration. The large-scale 12.5 by 15-foot painting is being kept inside of a glass chamber to protect it, as experts at the museum have noticed blanching in some parts of its background. Night Watch has lived at the Rijksmuseum since 1808, and a gallery was specifically designed to showcase the piece.
The complete restoration, titled “Operation Night Watch,” is on view to not only the public at the museum but also live online (though the stream isn’t terribly entertaining at the moment, as the project is currently in a hands-off research stage). According to BBC, at the unveiling of the piece, the museum’s general director, Taco Dibbits, said of the museum’s decision to put the restoration on public view, “More than two and a half million people come and see it each year. It belongs to everybody who lives in the Netherlands, and the world. And we felt that the public has the right to see what happens to that painting.”
This is the first time the piece has been restored since 1975, when it was severely damaged by a museum-goer wielding a knife, inflicting 12 cuts into the canvas. It had also been damaged twice before, most recently in 1990 after a man sprayed acid on it, and after a different knife attack in 1911. Both of these incidents only impacted the varnish, not the canvas. In its history, the painting has been treated around 25 times, according to the museum.