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Night Watch360 – The flip side of art - 


The Night Watch
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) is regarded as the most famous artist of the Golden Age. 

His versatile and comprehensive oeuvre, full of portraits, self-portraits, etchings, drawings and historical pieces, is among 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 popular among an audience of millions.

Nachtwacht360 focuses all attention on Rembrandts largest and most famous painting: Riflemen of District II under Captain Frans Banninck Cocq from 1642, better known as &;The Night Watch.  The canvas was made for the Kloveniersdoelen, one of the association buildings of the Amsterdam militia, the civic guard of the city. Rembrandt was the first to portray the figures in action in a group portrait. The captain, in black, orders his lieutenant for the company to march. The shooters line up. Using light-dark effects, Rembrandt drew attention to important details, such as the captains hand gesture and the little girl in the background. The dynamic attitude and almost theatrical facial expressions of the shooters give the work an unprecedented liveliness.


Julius Rooymans and Hans Ubbink worked together with experts from home and abroad on the precise reconstruction of the masterpiece as a photograph, in which Rembrandt's painting from 1642 was reproduced in its original format (more than 4 by 5 metres, including the parts cut off in 1715).  

For the project, lookalikes were used, which resemble their predecessors depicted in paint so much that they can be passed off as them. Subsequently, costumes and attributes that are visible in the original painting were recreated in the most realistic and authentic way possible. The project uses authentic seventeenth-century armour, weapons and helmets from collectors collections in the Netherlands. Objects that no longer existed or that 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 Rembrandts birthplace, Leiden. For example, the fencing holding the gunpowder boy (on the left in the image) was photographed in Leiden. It is located between Rembrandts birthplace in Weddesteeg and his first studio at het  Kort Galgewater. Most of the stones are from the Nieuwe Kerk and the Royal Palace on Dam Square.

The flip side
Rooymans and Ubbink added another element to their reconstruction of De Nachtwacht: the Keerzijde. The guiding principle for this was their own curiosity about the background against which Rembrandts masterpiece was created: 


While the Night Watch shows the splendor of the exterior, the Reverse side shows scenes from Rembrandts life as an artist.

“What would you see if you could look back in time through the canvas at the back? What kind of room are the shooters actually in, and where is the painter who so gloriously immortalized them in individual strokes of oil paint? When we let go of all speculation about the visible representation in the painting, the perspective broadens – 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 Reverse of the Night Watch

As beautiful and magnificent as the companys archers present themselves, life in the Golden Age and the life of the master Rembrandt was so hard.  


The counter-perspective shows the other side of the Night Watch. Scenes and references to the artists life. 


The Reverse side has been photographed with the same perspective and light direction as the front, so as a viewer you have the feeling of walking around the scene of the Night Watch and seeing the back of the famous painting. 


On the back we see in the middle of the image  the gunmen on the back while Rembrandt is working on the Night Watch. 


Saskia as Flora

Saskia can be seen on the Reverse side at  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 Reverse side, all the flowers have withered and she is dressed entirely in black with a flower staff.

From beyond she watches her husband working on his masterpiece.


No one can see the dead except the lucid vagabond who asks her for alms. 

The gunman, who is annoyed by this beggar, does not realize that he is missing 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 married Saskia van Uijlenburgh. The couple had four children, three of whom died shortly after birth. Titus, the youngest child, survived the longest.

Their third child died in 1640. Saskia did not fully recover from this maternity bed and his wife herself died in the year 1642. The year that the Night Watch was completed. 


the matchmaker

In the top left corner is a reference to the painting The Matchmaker by Gerard van Honthorst. This painter from Utrecht is one of the most gifted followers of Caravaggio. He is counted among de Utrecht caravaggisti. Through this group Rembrandt came into contact with the chiaroscuro; the dramatic light-dark contrast.


the bubble blower

The boy blowing bubbles underneath is a symbolic representation of the Homo Bulla; (literally translated: man is like a bubble).

The young man on the Keerzijde is therefore not cheerfully blowing bubbles as we know it today, but carries a message with him: despite the lusts of earthly existence, human life is just as vulnerable as that of a soap bubble. .


the tavern

The tavern is busy and people drink a lot of beer. It was "thin beer" with only 2% alcohol. The popularity of this drink was largely due to the lack of clean drinking water, especially in the cities. The surface water was polluted by textile dyers and tanneries. Everyone threw all their waste into the canal. Beer was a safe alternative. The serving girl accepts the attention of 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 candid language was the most natural thing in the world


The still life

At the front, the maid in the clothes of Vermeers milkmaid is cleaning up her fallen still life. In de Golden Age  the production of still lifes in the Netherlands and Flanders reached a peak. The stately still life symbolized the wealth of the paintings commissioner.  

Items and foods associated with a meal were an encouragement to temperance, or a reference to the last supper.

The fallen glass symbolizes the meaninglessness of earthly existence.

The Kooikerhondje that cannot contain itself is an old Dutch breed that is often seen in 17th century paintings.



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 beer was often drunk here because of the dirty water, toilets did not exist and feces fell into the canals…

In the golden age, many children lost their parents because diseases were more often fatal. These children were taken care of in civilian orphanages. Often there was a boys and girls house so that brothers and sisters could see each other little or not. 

The orphans slept in bed with three children and ate from one plate with several children.

The Amsterdam orphans wore a uniform in the colors red and black, the colors that are also in the citys coat of arms


The spider house

The door with the image on top of a woman who is about to hit another woman with a cart is the door of the Amsterdam spider house on Oudezijds Achterburgwal.

Below that are some lines of poetry by PC in relief. Head: 


Don't be scared. I don't avenge bad but force good

Punishing is my hand, but my love is sweet


Inside is also rough. The spinsters were kept in line with corporal punishment by an “indoor mother”.


The Spinhuis was a prison in Amsterdam where only women were held, as punishment they had to spin and sew. Young beggars and prostitutes ended up in the spider house.


Geertje Dirx

Geertje Dircx came around 1641 without children Rembrandtand Saskia in service. 

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 Saskia.


Rembrandt had her locked up in a penitentiary, when after much quarrel she brought Saskia's rings to de lommerd . no (dated) paintings and etchings.


Only after five years did her friend Trijn Jacobs from Edam manage to get her out, while Rembrandt sent letters to the Gouda magistrate demanding that Geertje still be detained.


Hendrikje Stoffels / The Regents

In the meantime, Hendrickje Stoffels  had become Geertjes successor as a mistress. In 1654  she received an official rebuke from the church for living in fornication with the painter. In the same year they had a daughter, whom they named Cornelia, after Rembrandts mother.

Rembrandt lived beyond his means at that time. He regularly bought exotic objects, including special clothing, which he often used in his paintings.

In 1656  he could no longer fulfill his obligations to pay off the loans for his house and Rembrandt's bankruptcy was filed.

In 1660 Hendrickje had set up an art dealership (company) together with Titus. Everything the family owned had become the property of that company. Rembrandt was employed as a consultant. He received board and lodging, and some pocket money. This construction was supposed to protect Rembrandt from creditors.

In 1663 the plague made many victims in Amsterdam. One of them was Hendrickje Stoffels. She died in the house on Rozengracht that she had moved to five years earlier with Rembrandt , after he had to sell the house on Jodenbreestraat. Hendrickje was not yet forty.


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Here you see a lonely man; a thinker. A reference to Baruch Spinoza, a 17th century philosopher who looked at ordinary things in a new way. There are all kinds of things that people in the seventeenth century consider very normal. Spinoza asks many questions: How does a rainbow form? Is it good for a king to have all the power? Is everything in the Bible true? How can you actually know if something is true?

Again and again his radical views bring him into conflict with the establishment. 

When Spinoza is twenty-three, he is expelled from the Jewish community. He is no longer allowed to enter the synagogue and other Jewish people are no longer allowed to associate with him. Not even his family – a severe punishment. 

On the reverse 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 who 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 well. A person is no better than an animal. Because both are a part of God. Neither one is better than the other, for both are a part of God.

Most of Spinoza's contemporaries believe that this is not how you should think and talk about God. Those ideas could land you in jail, or worse, burned at the stake. That is why Spinoza's book Ethics  is not printed until after his death. Without his name.


According to Spinoza, you can say anything to each other, as long as you don't harm each other.


The skull, the candle and the 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 the eternal life.

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