Rembrandt: A Virtual World Tour

Fourth Stop: Amsterdam, the Netherlands


During our Rembrandt Virtual World Tour we have explored the Dutch Golden Age, masterfully captured by one of history’s greatest artists. How serendipitous that Rembrandt van Rijn's lifetime coincided with Amsterdam’s economic peak and that his personality, paired with artistic skill, positioned him to become the preferred artist of the upper social class. This combination of elements resulted in an amazing oeuvre, both documenting the time period and bringing innovation to the art world.

The Night Watch, 1642
Militia Company of District II under the
Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq

Oil on canvas
H 12' 5" x  W 14' 10"

This brings us to the final stop on our world tour: The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, home to what is considered Rembrandt’s most famous work, The Night Watch. This is one of the most studied, revered and restored paintings of all time. The more common title is Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq. The name The Night Watch started in the late 18th century as the gradual darkening of the varnish resulted in what was believed to be a night time setting. A restoration in the 1940s revealed the painting to be a day time scene with chiaroscuro used to create dramatic shades of light and dark within the interior surroundings.

This commissioned piece was intended to document the members of the Kloveniers, a civic guard militia company of Amsterdam’s 2nd District as stated in the original title. The men paid dues to be part of this guild just like they paid to be in this painting. They were well-known and wealthy. During this time, the war with Spain had ended, so the militia had become more of a social club. Being part of it granted one access to a powerful network of Amsterdam’s elite, like a modern-day neighborhood watch joins a country club.

This is the first group portrait to show its subjects in action. The chattering men (above), beating drum, and barking dog create a soundtrack to the organized chaos.

The work was originally even larger than its present monumental state. In 1715 it was moved from the guild’s headquarters to Amsterdam’s town hall and had to be trimmed to fit into its new home. The shield in the background was added around this time and displays the names of the Kloveniers. Rembrandt had long been deceased when this happened, but one cannot help but wonder how he would have reacted to such altering of his work.

High resolution photography and advanced imaging techniques were used to accurately determine the condition of the painting. 

In 2019, Operation Night Watch was launched as the largest research and conservation project ever done on Rembrandt’s masterpiece. Visitors to the Rijksmuseum could watch the project unfold as the painting remained in its central location during the process.

Rembrandt’s career started to decline after completing this work in 1642. His wife passed away the same year and he ended up filing for bankruptcy in 1656.

This takes us to the end of our Rembrandt Virtual World Tour. We look forward to welcoming you to Elverhøj when is it safe to do so and will keep you posted on reopening plans as they develop. Our exhibition, Legacy of Decency: Rembrandt, Jews and Danes has been extended indefinitely. 

Stay safe,
The Elverhøj Team

If you would like to learn more about The Night Watch here are some key resources:

Operation Night Watch https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/nightwatch

The Night Watch Experience https://nightwatchexperience.com/en

10 Things You Might Not Know About the Night Watch https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/rijks-stories/10-things-night-watch

Night Watch Flash Mob Celebrates the Re-Opening of the Rijksmuseum in 2013 after major renovations https://youtu.be/YSIXleVWPaE

LOOKING AHEAD: The Art of Face Masks
This virtual exhibition reunites a creative group of artists that participated in “The Art of Dress” exhibition in 2019.

ELVERHØJ MUSEUM of History & Art

1624 Elverhoy Way
Solvang, CA 93463


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