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Revelations About Rembrandt's Masterpiece Captured on Camera

Accepted submission by martyb at 2020-05-23 02:38:20
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Revelations about Rembrandt's masterpiece captured on camera [bbc.com]:

At 9am on Tuesday the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam posted an image of Rembrandt's The Night Watch (1642) on its website. Nothing particularly unusual about that, you might think. After all, the museum frequently uploads pictures of its masterpieces from Dutch Golden Age. But there was something about this particular photo that made it stand out just like the little girl in a gold dress in Rembrandt's famous group portrait of local civic guardsmen.

The web image presents the painting unframed on a dark grey background [hyper-resolution.org]. It looks sharp and well-lit but not exceptional in terms of photography.

Until, that is, you click on it, at which point you're zoomed in a bit closer.

Click again and you're propelled towards the outstretched hand of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq. Another click, and you're face-to-face with the leader of this group of not-so-merry-men.

Once more, and you can see the glint in his eye and the texture of his ginger beard.

At no point does the image start to pixelate or distort, it's pin-sharp throughout.

And it remains so as you continue to click, getting further and further into the painting until the Captain's paint-cracked eyeball is the size of a fist, and you realise that tiny glint you first saw isn't the result of one dab of Rembrandt's brush, but four separate applications, each loaded with a slightly different shade of paint.

And then you stop and think: Crikey, Rembrandt actually used four different colours to paint a minuscule light effect in the eye of one of the many life-sized protagonists featured in this group portrait, which probably wouldn't be seen by anybody anyway.

Or, maybe, this visionary 17th Century Dutchman foresaw a future where the early experiments with camera obscura techniques, in which he might have dabbled, would eventually lead to a photographic technology capable of recording a visual representation of his giant canvas to a level of detail beyond the eyesight of even the artist himself!

It is, quite frankly, amazing.

For instance, I've always liked the ghostly dog that turns and snarls at the drummer situated at the edge of the painting. I'd assumed the hound was unfinished and therefore unloved by Rembrandt, but now I can see by zooming in that the artist not only gave the dog a stylish collar, but also added a gold pendant with a tiny flash of red paint to echo the colour of the trousers worn by the drummer.

The story notes the painting is so large that the people in it are basically life-sized.


Original Submission