The Nachtwacht Project
Update: February 14, 2022
Rembrandt van Rijn: De Nachtwacht / The Night Watch
"Captain Frans Banninck Cocq's Militia Company in 1642"
Historic Social Networks
This quick, one week, project about the Night Watch is an extension of my Biard Project to see how easy it is to incorporate the web structures I created for "Une Soiree au Louvre" for other paintings. Being Dutch, the Night Watch is nr. 1 on my list.
Managing our social networks plays a major role in our lives. Sometimes we forget that this didn't start when Mark Zuckerberg built "The Facebook" website for Harvard students in 2003, but that this need is as old as our society. Our connections with close friends, family, and acquaintances are now easily displayed, updated, and enhanced on our smartphones.
Before photography, invented in 1839, the only way to display the importance of your network was to commission a painting. This is why Francois Biard was asked late in 1851 by count Émile de Nieuwerkerke, superintendent of the world's most famous museums in Paris, to create a painting of his key social connections.
On my Home page of this website I describe my efforts to retrieve all the names in Biard's painting and their historic significance.
De Nieuwerkerke's idea wasn't new, of course. This approach already happened hundreds of years earlier. The most famous display of this desire to depict oneself among friends was Frans Banninck Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch's request to Rembrandt van Rijn in 1639 to do this for their militia group. This stunning work, on display at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, was completed in 1642.
Similar to what I initiated in 2015 for the painting of Francois Biard I have created this display to enable visitors to learn more about the Night Watch. Altogether it took just over one week of effort, most of which was related to compiling the data for each person.
Primary goal is to demonstrate how easy it is to maintain and update this information. For many years I wondered why details about paintings are only available in small side notes that typically depict nothing more than artist, year, name of artwork, and something like "oil on canvas". Duh. Why not provide this, and much more, on touch-screen displays?
Given the massive amount of people visiting the Night Watch it can be very effective to have half a dozen large touch-screen monitors nearby providing these details in an easy "hands-on" approach.
Similarly, such display panels may be provided in each hall to provide enhanced information about the artworks.
These touch-screen monitors offer visitors an experience that cannot be obtained from guide books or the, usually unreadable, small side notes. They provide "hands-on" education for school children and others that have little or no prior knowledge about the painting and/or include challenges, Q&A or a quiz ("find all characters on this painting and get our museum young-historian award").
They can easily be made multi-lingual.
Visitors can directly interact with the painting and learn.
They allow for up-to-date information with links to other locations at the museum, workshops, upcoming expositions or other cultural and promotional events.
These displays will enable crowd-management in an entertaining way during expositions that draw a large audience.
Above image is the original version of Rembrandt's painting, with the yellow left line indicating a section trimmed in the year 1715 to fit the painting in the Amsterdam Town Hall. It was trimmed on all four sides, but on the left side the trimming eliminated three characters. I have provided information about the thirty-three persons in the painting, the dog and on a few details. I have numbered the characters left-to-right starting at the trimmed left edge of the painting.
Other than for my Biard Project, I have not researched these characters but rely on data provided by publicly available sources such as the on-line gigapixel display.
Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any suggestions or comments.
© Gert Nieveld,
Amsterdam, December 2021