Night watch 360 – the other side of art -
The Night Watch Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) is seen as the most famous artist of the Golden
His multifaceted and comprehensive oeuvre full of (self) portraits, etchings, drawings and history
pieces belongs to the top of (museum) art collections all over the world. The strong light-dark
contrasts, dramatic compositions and loose brushstrokes still give the seventeenth-century works
strength and allure today, and make them loved by millions of people. Nightwatch360 focuseson
Rembrandt's largest and most famous painting: Men of district II under the command of Captain
Frans Banninck Cocq from 1642, better known as "The Night Watch".
The canvas was made for the Kloveniersdoelen, one of the club buildings of the Amsterdam civic
guard. Rembrandt was the first to show the figures in action in a group portrait. The captain, in
black, instructs his lieutenant that the company must march. The shooters line up. Using light-dark
effects, Rembrandt drew attention to important details, such as the hand gesture of the captain
and the little girl in the background. The dynamic attitude and almost theatrical expression of the
shooters give the work an unprecedented liveliness.
Julius Rooymans and Hans Ubbink worked with experts from the Netherlands and abroad on the
precise reconstruction of the masterpiece as a photograph, in which Rembrandt's painting from
1642 was copied in its original format (over 4 by 5 meters, including the parts cut off in 1715).
For the project, lookalikes were used, which resemble their predecessors in paint so much that
they can pass for it. Subsequently, costumes and attributes that are visible in the original painting
were copied in as realistic and authentic way as possible. The project uses authentic seventeenthcentury
armour, weapons and helmets from collections of collectors in the Netherlands. Objects
that no longer existed or were conceived by Rembrandt himself were specially designed for this
project, using both traditional seventeenth-century and contemporary techniques.
The background is made up of elements of historic Amsterdam and the home town of Rembrandt,
Leiden. For example, the fencing that the powder boy holds (left in the image) was photographed
in Leiden. It is located between Rembrandt’s birth house in the Weddesteeg and his first studio at
the Kort Galgewater. Most of the bricks are shot at the Nieuwe Kerk and the Palace on the Dam.
Rooymans and Ubbink added another element to their reconstruction of De Nachtwacht: De
Keerzijde. Their own curiosity about the background against which Rembrandt's masterpiece
came about led:
While the Night Watch shows the splendour of the exterior, the Keerzijde shows scenes from the
life of Rembrandt as an artist.
“What would you see if you could look back in time through the canvas through the canvas? What
kind of room are the shooters actually located, and where is the painter who managed to
immortalize them in glorious regions of oil paint? When we release all speculation about the
visible representation on the painting, the perspective expands - literally and figuratively. The
frame of the painting no longer determines the framework within which the performance takes
place. That story goes much further. "
What can be seen on the Keerzijde of the Nachtwacht
As beautiful and attractive as the shooters of the company present themselves, life in the Golden
Age and that of master Rembrandt was hard.
Nightwatch360 – the Other side of Art -
The counter perspective shows the other side of the Night Watch. Scenes and references to the
De Keerzijde has been photographed with the same perspective and direction of light as the
front, so that the viewer has the feeling of walking around the Night Watch scene and seeing the
famous painting from the other side.
On the Other side we see the shooters on the back in the middle of the image while Rembrandt is
working on the Night Watch.
Saskia as Flora
Saskia can be seen on the Keerzijde near the right pillar as the goddess of spring and flowers,
Flora. Rembrandt painted his young Saskia as this beautiful muse in 1634.
But because she is no longer alive on the Keerzijde, all flowers are withered and she is dressed
entirely in black with a flower staff.
From the other side she looks at her husband who is working on his masterpiece.
No one can see the dead except for the lucid wanderer who asks her for alms.
The shooter who is bothered by this beggar, does not realize that he misses the moment of his life
and runs away from one of the most famous scenes in history: the painting The Night Watch
Background Saskia van Uijlenburgh
On 2 July 1634 the master marries Saskia van Uijlenburgh. The couple had four children, three of
whom died shortly after birth. Titus, the youngest child, lived the longest.
In 1640 their third child died. Saskia did not fully recover from this maternity bed and Rembrandts
wife died in the year 1642. The year that the Night Watch was delivered.
In the upper left corner there is a reference to the painting The matchmaker by Gerard van
Honthorst. This painter from Utrecht was one of the most gifted followers of Caravaggio. He is
counted among the Utrecht-caravaggists. Through this group Rembrandt came into contact with
the clair-obscur; the dramatic light-dark contrast.
The bubble blower
The boy beneath who blows bubbles is a symbolic representation of the Homo Bulla; (literally
translated: man is like a bubble).
The young man on the Keerzijde is therefore not happily blowing bubbles as we know it today,
but carries a message: despite the lusts of earthly existence, human life is just as vulnerable as
that of a bubble .
In the tavern it is a busy place and a lot of beer is drunk. It was "dun beer" with only 2% alcohol.
The popularity of beer was largely due to the fact that there was hardly any clean drinking water,
especially in the cities. The surface water was polluted by textile dyers and tanneries. Everyone
dumped all their waste in the canal. Beer was a safe alternative. The servant girl is pleased with
the clumsy men, but the innkeeper intervenes.
Although chastity was seen as an important value in the Republic of the Netherlands, the Dutch
were certainly not prudish in the 17th century. Kissing in public and frank language were the most
normal thing in the world
The still life
In the front, the maid in Vermeer's milk maid tidies her fallen still life. The production of still lifes in
the Netherlands and Flanders peaked in the Golden Age. The wealth of the person who
commissioned the painting was symbolised with the show still life.
Items and foods associated with a meal were an encouragement for moderation, or a reference to
the Last Supper.
The fallen glass symbolises the futility of earthly existence.
The Kooikerhondje that can not resist, is an old Dutch breed that is very common in 17th century
Behind the beautiful dog, an older orphan gives a young orphan girl a cup of milk.
Orphanages often had their own cows for their milk, but often beer was also drunk here because
of the dirty water, Toilets did not exist and droppings fell into the canal ...
In the golden age many children lost their parents because diseases were more often fatal. These
children were cared for in orphanages. Often there was a boys 'and girls' house, as a result of
which brothers and sisters could hardly see each other.
The orphans slept in bed with three of them and ate with several children from one plate.
The Amsterdam orphans wore a uniform in the colours red and black, the colours that are also in
the coat of arms of the city
The convict prison for women: The Spinhuis
The door with the image of a woman about to hit another woman with a whip is the door of the
the convict prison for women on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal in Amsterdam.
Above the door few poetry lines from PC Hooft in relief:
Do not be frightened. I do not avenge evil but force good
Punishment is my handle but my heart is sweet
Inside it is also rough. The spinsters were kept under control with corporal punishment by an
The Spinhuis was a disciplinary house in Amsterdam for only women, for punishment they had to
spin and sew. Young beggars and prostitutes ended up in the convict prison.
Geertje Dircx joined Rembrandt and Saskia without children around 1641.
After Saskia's death in June 1642, Rembrandt started a relationship with Geertje that lasted until
1649. Rembrandt fell in love with her and gave her a number of rings from his deceased wife
They got into a fight in May 1649, probably as a result of Rembrandt's love for the new
housekeeper Hendrickje Stoffels.
Rembrandt had her locked up in this disciplinary house, when after a lot of quarrel she brought
Saskia's rings to the pawnshop.
Only after five years did her friend Trijn Jacobs from Edam managed to free her, while Rembrandt
sent letters to the magistrate in which he demanded that Geertje still be detained.
Hendrikje Stoffels / The Regents
Meanwhile Hendrickje Stoffels had become Geertje's successor as mistress. In 1654 she received
an official reprimand from the church because she lived 'in fornication' with the painter. In the
same year they had a daughter, whom they called Cornelia, after Rembrandt's mother.
Rembrandt lived beyond his means at the time. He regularly bought exotic objects, including
special items of clothing, which he often used in his paintings.
In 1656 he was no longer able to fulfill his obligations to pay off the loans for his house and
Rembrandt's bankruptcy was applied for.
In 1660 Hendrickje had set up an art dealership with Titus. Everything the family owned had
become the property of that company. Rembrandt was employed as an advisor. He received food
and lodging for that, and some pocket money. Rembrandt had to protect this construction against
In 1663 the plague made many victims in Amsterdam. One of them was Hendrickje Stoffels. She
died in the house on the Rozengracht, where she had moved to Rembrandt five years earlier, after
he had to sell the house on Jodenbreestraat. Hendrickje was not yet forty.
Upper right window
Here you see a lonely man; a philosopher. A reference to Baruch Spinoza, a 17th century
philosopher who looked at ordinary things in a new way. There are all sorts of things that people
in the seventeenth century find very normal. Spinoza asks many questions: How does a rainbow
come about? Is it good if a king has all power? Is everything true in the Bible? How can you
actually know if something is true?
Time and again his radical views bring him into conflict with the established power.
When Spinoza is twenty-three, he is banned from the Jewish community. He is no longer allowed
to enter the synagogue and other Jewish people are no longer allowed to interact with him. Not
even his family - a severe punishment.
On the Other side we see him isolated and introverted.
In Ethica, his masterpiece, Spinoza describes how he thinks about God. According to Spinoza,
God is not a "person" who is above the world and rewards or punishes people. God is the world.
Nature, animals, people: everything is God. And God is everything. That is why people must treat
each other and nature carefully and properly. A person is no better than an animal. Because both
are part of God. One person is no better than another, because both are a part of God.
Most contemporaries of Spinoza think you shouldn't think and talk about God like that. With
those ideas you can go to jail, or worse: at the stake. That is why Spinoza's book Ethica is only
printed after his death. Without his name.
According to Spinoza you can say everything to each other, as long as you do not harm each
The skull, candle and flowers were used in paintings as a metaphor for the temporality of earthly
life. This vanitas symbolism has a Protestant-Christian origin. It encourages the viewer to focus on