Home Dutch News Nachtwacht relocated in delicate operation

Nachtwacht relocated in delicate operation

Published on 11/12/2003

11 December 2003

AMSTERDAM — Rembrandt’s world famous Nachtwacht was moved outside the Rijksmuseum for the first time since World War II on Thursday as it was relocated to allow renovation works to the museum’s main building.

In a complex and delicate operation, the Dutch artist’s master work was relocated to the Philips wing of the Rijksmuseum. Despite the fact the painting was only in the open air for 15 minutes, 12 months of preparation went into ensuring its safe transfer.

Precautions needed to be taken against the danger that pieces of paint might be dislodged from the canvas. This required the artwork be maintained in an environment of stable temperature and humidity. It could not be exposed to large temperature fluctuations, vibrations or shocks.

The “military operation” started at 6.30am. The 4.54m by 3.79m painting, weighing 170kg without the frame, was first placed into a wooden frame especially designed by relocation company Gerlach Art Packers.

It was then wrapped in a protective sheet — designed by Dutch electronics company Philips — which was fitted out with special sensors to monitor heat and humidity, an NOS news report said.

Due to the fact that the internal doors of the Rijksmuseum were too small, the painting had to be relocated on the outside of the building. Once outside, it was placed on a cart at about midday and moved the several hundred metres to the Philips wing at a speed of 0.3m per second and will be back on display from 20 December.

Intense security precautions were taken to ensure the safe relocation of the painting. Police sealed off a wide area around the museum and the museum kept a tight lid on publicity to prevent unwelcome onlookers, news agency ANP reported. A practice operation was also recently staged.

The 1642 Nachtwacht, or Night Watch, has been on exhibit in the Rijksmuseum since 1885 and has been outside the historic building’s four walls just twice previously. The first “excursion” occurred in 1898 when it was loaned to the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and in 1939 when World War II erupted.

But precautions against damages were not so rigid during the war years, when the painting was simply rolled up and relocated around the country. It was brought back by boat to Amsterdam in 1945 and has not been outside the Rijksmuseum since then.

Renovation work to the museum will start early 2004 and is expected to cost EUR 272 million. The main part of the museum will be closed while work continues until mid-2008.  Other top exhibits from the 17th century are also being transferred to the Philips wing.

[Copyright Expatica News 2003]

Subject: Dutch news