Fine Art Successfully Moves Rembrandt Masterpiece The Night Watch to its New Home

March 25, 2013

Crown Fine Art recently moved The Night Watch, Rembrandt van Rijn's world-renowned painting, famous for its enormous size and perception of motion. The move, lead by the Rijksmuseum alongside fine art expert Paul Nies, is the first since December 11, 2003, when Crown Fine Art successfully moved the painting to the Philips Wing in the Rijksmuseum for the museum's ten-year renovation. Thanks to Crown Fine Art's care and expertise, The Night Watch  will remain in the Rijksmuseum but will now be displayed in its new home created especially for this masterpiece in the newly renovated Rijksmuseum.

One of the most famous paintings in the world, The Night Watch captures Captain Frans Banning Cocq's militia company in 1642. Unlike many other painters of Rembrandt's time, who lined up their stiff-looking subjects in black formal attire, Rembrandt created a scene full of action, with men in varied and colorful outfits waving a standard, beating a drum, loading muskets or brandishing pikes as they marched from a darkened archway into the light.

The 363 cm by 437 cm  (about 12 ft. by 14 ft.) painting has rarely been moved; in 1715, it was shifted from the headquarters of Captain Banning Cocq's company to the Town Hall - now the Royal Palace on Dam Square. There, the painting was cut on all sides to fit in its space.  The painting was then transferred to the newly built Rijksmuseum in 1885, only to be removed and hidden in bunkers for safekeeping during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during World War II. The last time The Night Watch changed places was on Thursday, December 11, 2003, when Crown Fine Art  brought it to the Philips Wing where it stayed for 10 years while the Rijksmuseum was being renovated. Paul was the experienced leader of the Crown Fne Art team that moved The Night Watch in 2003.

Moving the huge canvas was a significant undertaking, requiring the greatest care and delicacy:

  • Forklifts lowered The Night Watch off the wall onto foam cushions
  • Crown team removed its frame and swathed it in soft foam and plastic 
  • The painting was placed in a humidity-controlled, custom-made box
  • The box, weighing 2000 kg, was rolled to a narrow door  (called "the mailbox") in the second-story gallery
  • The box was slid  through the opening into a steel-framed envelope with an outer skin of Kevlar, a material used for soldiers' body armor. 
  • A crane lowered the box onto wheels for transport
  • A team of twelve men rolled the painting to the entrance of the Rijksmuseum while police officers sealed off the major road past the museum
  • At the entrance, the box was taken out of the Kevlar envelope and brought into the Rijksmuseum 
  • Once the painting arrived at her new spot in the Night Watch room, the painting was carefully removed from the box 
  • The Crown Fine Art team hung the painting 60 cm off the floor

Contact an expert