Operation Night Watch is the biggest and most wide-ranging ever study of Rembrandt’s masterpiece. The project started in summer 2019 and is being carried out in full view of the visiting public in a specially designed glass chamber.

The Night Watch is Rembrandt’s most celebrated painting, showing citizens of Amsterdam protecting the city. The painting is almost 400 years old, and it deserves the best possible care so that people can continue to enjoy it, far into the future. That’s why in 2019 the Rijksmuseum started Operation Night Watch, the biggest and most wide-ranging research and conservation project ever carried out on Rembrandt’s masterpiece.


We are currently in the process of conducting varnish removal tests to work out the safest approach for removing the layers of varnish from the painting.


Varnish is a transparent coating applied over the painted surface to protect it. As well as protecting the layers of paint, the varnish saturates the colours to achieve the desired brightness and intensity. Over time, however, the varnish becomes less transparent due to discolouring and tiny cracks – it can be like looking through a fogged-up window. That’s why in some cases the decision is taken to remove old layers of varnish from a painting and replace them with new varnish.

Cotton bud or cloth?

Restorers often remove varnish from paintings with cotton buds and solvent. Another method is to use an absorbent synthetic cloth – one of the advantages of this approach is that you use much less solvent. We are testing out both methods on The Night Watch. The small areas of the painting used for the varnish removal tests are clearly visible because the paint look less vibrant without varnish.

The Night Watch: visibility temporarily reduced

Operation Night Watch offers a unique opportunity for visitors to follow the restoration of Rembrandt’s masterpiece live at the Rijksmuseum. We are currently studying the effects of vibrations on the canvas and how we can minimise any chance of movement in the canvas. These activities are temporarily reducing the visibility of The Night Watch. This work is an essential step in the restoration process, and we are unfortunately unable to avoid reducing visibility of the painting . This phase of the research project will continue until mid-September.


The Rijksmuseum is conducting this research on The Night Watch in partnership with experts from AkzoNobel.

The team

Een portretfoto van Robert van Langh Een portretfoto van Robert van Langh

Robert van Langh
Head Conservation & Science

Susan Smelt
Paintings Conservator

Een portret van Katrien Keune Een portret van Katrien Keune

Katrien Keune
Head of Science

Robert Erdmann
Senior Scientist

Annelies van Loon
Paintings Research Scientist

Francesca Gabrieli
Junior Science

Victor Gonzalez
Junior Science

Carola van Wijk

Henni van Beek

Petria Noble
Head of Paintings Conservation

Lisette Vos
Paintings Conservator

Esther van Duijn
Paintings Conservator

Anna Krekeler
Paintings Conservator

Giulia de Vivo  
Paintings Conservator

Een portret van Ige Verslype Een portret van Ige Verslype

Ige Verslype
Paintings Conservator

Laura Raven
Junior Paintings Conservator

Nienke Woltman
Junior Paintings Conservator

Gregor Weber
Head of Fine and Decorative Arts

Jonathan Bikker
Curator of 17th-century Dutch paintings

Pieter Roelofs
Head of Paintings and Sculpture

Erma Hermens

We thank

Operation Night Watch is made possible by The Bennink Foundation, C.L. de Carvalho-Heineken, PACCAR Foundation, Piet van der Slikke & Sandra Swelheim, American Express Foundation, Familie De Rooij, Het AutoBinck Fonds, TBRM Engineering Solutions, Dina & Kjell Johnsen, Familie D. Ermia, Familie M. van Poecke, Bruker Nano Analytics, Henry M. Holterman Fonds, Irma Theodora Fonds, Luca Fonds, Piek-den Hartog Fonds, Stichting Zabawas, Cevat Fonds, Johanna Kast-Michel Fonds, Marjorie & Jeffrey A. Rosen, Stichting Thurkowfonds, Familie Van Ogtrop Fonds, FedEx Express, Airbnb, NICAS, the Night Watch Fund, the City of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam Museum.

Main partner

Daily 9-17h
Night Watch Gallery


Museumstraat 1
1071 XX Amsterdam


Wheelchair access
Guide dogs allowed
Lifts on every floor


Free cloak room
Photography allowed
Free WiFi

All practical info

The Night Watch The Night Watch

What are the key findings?