‘Night Watch’ or ‘The Night Watch’ or ‘The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq’ by Rembrandt is one of the world’s the most celebrated works of art. however it is also a difficult work and as such to the uneducated eye it can seem hard to appreciate what all the fuss is about. It is the purpose of these lectures to equip the reader with the proper tools needed in order to take in such a work and to guide them in the right direction towards a higher level of visual literacy.
Lecture #1: Why having seeing it in person is nonsense
It is more often than not stated that in order to fully appreciate a work of art it is best to see it in the flesh so to speak. This claim is particularly thrown about willy-nilly with reference to Rembrandt’s masterpiece due to the sheer scale of the work; frequently it is claimed that due to its colossal size (363 x 437 cm ~ 11ft 10in x 14ft 4in) the effect of seeing in person is entirely different than looking at a scaled down print or jpeg image. However, anyone who has made the futile journey to Amsterdam to see the painting will tell you that this is simply wrong. Since the legalisation of prostitution in the Netherlands in 1830 it has been nigh on impossible to see the Night Watch without becoming immediately distracted by hookers turning tricks in the various Amsterdam museums in which it has been on display. Museums claim they are fighting losing battle with the city’s prostitutes and that, despite the most valiant efforts of tour guides, visitors eventually end up showing interest in the exhibits only as surfaces on which to have paid-for sex. The Rijksmuseum, in which it is currently held, have reported annual losses in their gift shop for the fifth year running.