CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Pieter Roelofs

Operation Night Watch


In his talk Pieter Roelofs will focus on Operation Night Watch, the current research and conservation project of Rembrandt´s most celebrated masterpiece. The goal of this project is the long-term preservation of the painting. In 2019 The Night Watch underwent a complete ‘body scan’. The research took place using the newest and most advanced conservation technologies, including non-invasive chemical imaging, high-resolution photography and advanced computer analysis, as well as microscopy and molecular studies of existing paint samples. The largest part of the research project has been conducted in the famous Night Watch Gallery of the Rijksmuseum. For this, a special glass chamber was installed inside the gallery.

Due to the large format of the painting, terabytes of data were generated that required processing, stitching, and registration by data scientists to correlate the different photographic and chemical imaging maps of the painting. The data was studied by the multidisciplinary Night Watch research team consisting of art historians, conservators, curators and scientists of the Rijksmuseum in collaboration with researchers from other institutions, including – among others – the University of Antwerp, Amsterdam UMC, TU Delft, TU Eindhoven and AkzoNobel.

This research is essential to come to a better understanding of The Night Watch’s genesis, Rembrandt’s painting technique, changes that have taken place over time, and the current condition of the painting. Last December, the team presented the research results of the first phase and last month the structural treatment of the painting was completed. Pieter Roelofs will discuss various aspects of the entire research project, including the most important results, the treatment plan that has been developed to help ensure the future preservation of the painting, and the challenges involved.

About Pieter Roelofs

Pieter Roelofs is Head of Paintings and Sculpture at the Rijksmuseum. In 2006 he became the curator of seventeenth-century Dutch painting at the Rijksmuseum where he was a member of the project team that put together the new seventeenth-century Dutch galleries in the Museum and curated several exhibitions in the museum. Before joining the Rijksmuseum he was responsible for the exhibition The Limbourg Brothers. Nijmegen Masters at the French court, 1400-1416 (2005) in Museum Het Valkhof, Nijmegen.