"It looks almost like a contemporary art installation"

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Researchers in front of the table
Researchers in front of the board the "Night Watch" in Amsterdam. (FREEK VAN DEN BERGH / ANP)

Three hundred and seventy-five years after Rembrandt's first brushstrokes, his monumental Night round, completed in 1642, is the subject since Monday, July 8 of a vast scientific investigation. Researchers at the famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, have begun in-depth research to determine what restoration operations might be needed. But what is unusual is that researchers work under the eyes of visitors. The goal is not to deprive them of one of the museum's flagship works.

In front of the immense canvas of 3.80 m high and 4.50 m wide, sophisticated equipment is installed. TheThe table itself can move back and forth, a metal truss rises from the bottom up and a double trolley moves in width and height. A gigantic scanner is deployed for the first phase of research. Around, the Rijksmuseum researchers are busy for the first measurements under the eyes of visitors from which they are separated by a glass cage seven meters by seven.

The visitors must still raise themselves on tiptoe like David, a teacher in the Vosges, who did not want to miss the Round of night. "It spoils, anyway, because we do not see the painting in its entirety.It depends where is located the kind of carriage that is in front the work because he walks in front of the canvas to take the photographs, says he. At one point, we were listening to a passage on the little dog that is disappearing (a detail of the painting) but the machine was just in front. "

It is interesting to see the restoration on site rather than the painting being removed from the museum for several months or years. The concept is good for visitors

David, a visitor

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For Elsa, coming from Paris, the activity of researchers is far from displeasing. "It gives a very contemporary side to the work, it is interesting to see everything that's going on around. With the glass cage, it looks almost like a contemporary art installation, we could say that there is a performance in progress. It does not spoils not the visit or the discovery of the work" She explains.

For almost a year, some twenty researchers from the Rijksmuseum will succeed each other the Night Watch for tomography, UV, infrared, diffraction and hyperspectral imaging operations.

Among the scientists who work around the web, there is Victor Gonzalez, doctor in chemistry. He will study with passion the pigments used by Rembrandt almost 400 years ago. "The challenge here is to eventually find the original color, He explains. Maybe we are not immune to other surprises, and we will discover other materials that are unique to the 'Night Watch'. We know that this was a very important order for Rembrandt. Maybe he experimented ... Maybe we'll find new clues for new Rembrandt colors. "

This research may help to reappear the little dog whose colors have faded over the centuries. The museum hopes to bring back the Night Watch to an appearance close to that of 1642.

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