Museum shares ultra-high-definition image of Rembrandt’s most famous work

Museum shares ultra-high-definition image of Rembrandt’s most famous work
The Night Watch by Rembrandt. Credit: Het Rijksmuseum

The largest and most detailed picture ever taken of a work of art has been shared by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

The Dutch museum published the ultra-high-resolution photograph of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch on its website. The image is 717 gigapixels – or 717,000,000 pixels – allowing visitors to view the Dutch artist’s most famous painting in greater detail than ever before, all from the comfort of their home.

“This is the largest and most detailed photograph ever taken of a work of art. The distance between two pixels is 5 micrometres (0.005 millimetres), which means that one pixel is smaller than a human red blood cell,” a statement on the museum’s website reads.

The work of art dates back to 1642 and portrays one of the three headquarters of Amsterdam’s civic guard – a group of civilian soldiers who defended the city from attack and were led by Captain Frans Banninck Cocq. It was painted on a huge canvas of about 3,8 metres by 4,5 metres and has a framed weight of around 337 kg.

To create the image of this painting, a 100-megapixel Hasselblad H6D 400 MS camera was used to take 8,439 individual pictures measuring 5,5 cm by 4,1cm, which were the stitched together digitally using artificial intelligence. The result was a file of 5.6 terabytes, according to the museum.

Following the ageing process

The photograph was mainly created as part of the Operation Night Watch, the largest research project that has ever been undertaken on the painting.

As part of this “operation,” the Rijksmuseum is using the newest and most advanced technology to determine how the masterpiece can be best preserved for future generations.

“This detailed snapshot allows us to understand how the painting changes in the long term. We can now compare the painting’s condition over ten or 20 years: has something changed and do we need to do something about it?” head of science at the museum, Katrien Keune, told Dutch broadcaster NOS.

Public can witness this ongoing project when visiting the museum, as all activities are carried out in a specially-designed glass room.

In May 2020, the Rijksmuseum already published a detailed photo of Rembrandt’s most famous painting. But this latest image is four times as sharp and more detailed.

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