“The Night Watch” by Rembrandt van Rijn is also known by the title “Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq” or “The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch”. It depicts a company of military men moving out, led by Captain Frans Banning Cocq, dressed in black, with a red sash and his lieutenant, Willem van Ruytenburch, dressed in yellow, with a white sash. The Night Watch is one of the most famous Dutch Golden Age paintings.
The painting is famous for its colossal size, its dramatic use of light and shadow, plus the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a traditional static military group portrait. Rembrandt skillfully uses sunlight and shade to lead the eye to the three most important characters among the crowd. They are the two gentlemen in the centre from whom the painting gets its original title, and the woman in the centre-left background carrying a chicken. Behind them, are the company’s colours are held up by the ensign, and these figures are almost life-size.
The traditional emblem of the infantryman armed with their arquebus, which is the name of the long gun from that period, is carried by with the woman in the background. Rembrandt has displayed her as a kind of mascot with the claws of a dead chicken on her belt represent the symbols of the arquebusiers, and she is holding the militia’s goblet. The dead chicken represents a defeated adversary. The colour yellow is often associated with victory.
- Title: The Night Watch
- Other Titles: The Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburgh
- Dutch Title: De Nachtwacht
- Artist: Rembrandt
- Created: 1642
- Medium: oil on canvas
- Periods: Dutch Golden Age, Baroque
- Dimensions: 363 cm × 437 cm (142.9 in × 172.0 in)
- Museum: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Artist Essential Facts:
- Name: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn
- Born: 1606 – Leiden, Dutch Republic (now the Netherlands)
- Died: 1669 (aged 63) – Amsterdam, Dutch Republic (Netherlands)
- Nationality: Dutch
- Movement: Dutch Golden Age, Baroque
- Notable works:
“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Leonardo da Vinci
Photo Credit 1) Rembrandt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons