The Night Watch (De Nachtwacht) by Rembrandt van Rijn
The Night Watch (De Nachtwacht) by Rembrandt van Rijn

The Night Watch (De Nachtwacht)

La Ronda de Noche (The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburgh, known as the “Night Watch”) c1642 by Dutch Painter Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669); also an accomplished draughtsman and printmaker, and in the history of art is considered to be one of the worlds greatest visual artist.

De Nachtwacht was completed in 1642 at the height of the Dutch Golden Age; and depicts Captain Frans Banninck Cocq (dressed in black, with a red sash) and his lieutenant, Willem van Ruytenburch (dressed in yellow, with a white sash)and the woman that we see in the background carrying a chicken are the central chracters of the painting.

In the painting Rembrandt has displayed the traditional emblem of the Arquebusiers; with the woman in the background carrying the main symbols. She can be regarded as sort of a mascot and the claws of the dead chicken (represents a defeated adversary) on her velt represent the clauweniers (arquebusiers – a type of long gun of the 15th century; with the term being applied to other firearms from the 15th to the 17th century); while the pistol behind the chicken represents clover; she is also holding the militia’s goblet.

The man in the front is wearing an oak leaf adorned helmet, which is a traditional motif of the arquebusiers; and the color yellow is often associated with victory.

The painting is also shorter than it was originally painted. In 1715 the painting was moved to the Amsterdam Town Hall and as a common practice of the time, it was trimmed on all four sides so that it could fit between two columns; which resulted in the lost of two characters on the left side of the painting, the top of the arch, the balustrade, and the edge of the step.

A 17th century copy of the painting by Gerrit Lundens (1622 – 1683) shows what the original artwork looked like.

The individuals that comprised the Night Watch are: Captain Frans Banning Cocq (dressed in black, with a red sash), heer van purmerlant en Ilpendam, Capiteijn Willem van Ruijtenburch van Vlaerdingen (his lieutenant dressed in yellow, with a white sash), heer van Vlaerdingen, Luijtenant, Jan Visscher Cornelisen Vaendrich, Rombout Kemp Sergeant, Reijnier Engelen Sergeant, Barent Harmansen, Jan Adriaensen Keyser, Elbert Willemsen, Musketier Jan Clasen Leydeckers (behind the Lieutenant in Yellow blowing into the powder pan of a musket which once belonged to Jan Snedeker), Jan Ockersen, Jan Pietersen bronchorst, Harman Iacobsen wormskerck, Jacob Dirksen de Roy (the Governor on far left of the cut off section of the painting), Jan vander heede, Walich Schellingwou, Jan brugman, Claes van Cruysbergen, and Paulus Schoonhoven.

This is a retouched digital art old masters reproduction of a public domain image.

Info Below Derived From

The new Dutch Republic was the most prosperous nation in Europe and led European trade, science, and art. The northern Netherlandish provinces that made up the new state had traditionally been less important artistic centres than cities in Flanders in the south.

The upheavals and large-scale transfers of population of the war, and the sharp break with the old monarchist and Catholic cultural traditions, meant that Dutch art had to reinvent itself. The painting of religious subjects declined sharply, but a large new market for many secular subjects developed.

Although Dutch painting of the Golden Age is included in the general European period of Baroque painting, and often shows many of its characteristics, most lacks the idealization and love of splendour typical of much Baroque work, including that of neighbouring Flanders. Most work, including that for which the period is best known, reflects the traditions of detailed realism inherited from Early Netherlandish painting.

A distinctive feature of the period is the proliferation of distinct genres of paintings, with the majority of artists producing the bulk of their work within one of these. The full development of this specialization is seen from the late 1620s, and the period from then until the French invasion of 1672 is the core of Golden Age painting.

Artists would spend most of their careers painting only portraits, genre scenes, landscapes, seascapes and ships, or still life, and often a particular sub-type within these categories. Many of these types of subject were new in Western painting, and the way the Dutch painted them in this period was decisive for their future development.

The Rijks Museum has posted a video on how they have gone about restoring the missing pieces of the painting.

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