Can You Guess the Painting?

Get up close to the details of a famous work, and see if you can guess it before the big reveal

By Google Arts & Culture

The Night Watch (1642) by Rembrandt Harmensz van RijnRijksmuseum

To help you work out which painting we’re taking an up close look at, we’re starting with the picture’s central figure. Clad in black with a red sash, he’s located right in the middle of the composition and is obviously the man in charge. His striding pose gives the painting a sense of movement and helps to bring the image to life. 

As he walks, the man in black is talking to the man in yellow. His light clothing, tall hat and white sash ensure he catches the light and stands out from the crowd. It’s clear from their poses that these two men have a lot to discuss and are the people the others look to for leadership. 

Just to one side of the men is the figure of a woman. She’s beautifully illuminated by the scant light and so the eye is automatically drawn to her. This figure is actually a lot more important than she first appears. The dead chicken at her waist symbolizes a defeated adversary. The yellow color of her clothes is associated with victory.

As well as the dead chicken, there are a number of other clues that indicate this might be a military scene. Several of the surrounding men are holding long-barrelled guns and, to one side, there’s a drummer poised to begin beating a rhythm. 

However, despite the military paraphernalia, there are no obvious uniforms. In fact, each character is dressed individually. What’s more, the men don’t appear to be in formation, the composition is much freer and more flowing than you’d expect from a traditional army tableau. 

The artist uses light and dark to create a dramatic, almost cinematic scene. Over the years, ageing varnish darkened the scene further, leading many to believe it was set at night. When the painting was restored in the 1940s, the varnish was removed and light returned to the image, showing definitively that it was set during the day 

Have you been able to piece the clues together to discover which masterpiece this is?

‘The Night Watch’, by Rembrandt van Rijn

One of the most famous pieces from the Golden Age of Dutch painting, The Night Watch was created by Rembrandt in 1642. Its dynamic composition, clever use of light and shade, together with its colossal 142.9 in x 172.0 in size made it an instant hit and it’s been on display in The Netherlands ever since. 

The painting features a militia group of civic guardsmen. There were a number of such groups in The Netherlands at the time and each had their own guild hall. This painting was commissioned by the Militia Company of District II and was created to take pride of place in the group’s hall.  

The Night Watch is currently on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Have a look around to take a virtual tour of the museum. 

Isaac and Rebecca, known as 'The Jewish Bride' (Around 1665 - Around 1669) by Rembrandt Harmensz van RijnRijksmuseum

Learn more about Rembrandt and his beautiful works here

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