Recreating Rembrandt’s ‘Night Watch’ with 3D printing and photography

Photographer Julius Rooymans and designer Hans Ubbink present "Nachtwatch 360"

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If you’ve ever been lucky enough to walk the many halls of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, you’ll likely have come across the famous “The Night Watch” painting (1642) by Dutch artist Rembrandt. Actually, perhaps “come across” is the wrong term, as most people bee-line to see the canvas—not only impressive for its massive scale but also for its captivating details. Now, thanks to a project by photographer Julius Rooymans and fashion designer Hans Ubbink, there is an entirely new way to experience the famed 17th century artwork.

The project, entitled “Nachtwacht 360,” is currently being exhibited in Amsterdam and consists of a photographic replica of the original Night Watch. Behind the scenes, Rooymans and Ubbink have put a ton of work into the project, finding 25 lookalikes for each of the members of the Night Watch (as well as Rembrandt), styling them to match the attributes and details of the painting and then photographing them to recreate the pose of the original painting. (The exhibit also consists of a number of portraits, fashion items and props made for the shoot.

As one can imagine, finding people that captured the likeness of each man in the Night Watch painting was itself an arduous task—but perhaps nothing was quite as tricky as recreating each of their outfits in real life. In order to fulfill this tall order, Ubbink collaborated with many people and groups, including Dutch 3D printing company Oceanz, which helped to produce some realistic 3D printed props, including helmets and weapons.

Ubbink and Rooymans sourced many 17th century items for the elaborate photography project from collectors in the Netherlands, though many key pieces in the painting were designed by Rembrandt, meaning that the pair had to find alternative solutions. Ubbink and Rooymans did not limit themselves in their techniques, as they worked with experts at the Rijksmuseum and the National Military Museum to identify and reproduce physical props and garments using both traditional and new techniques.

Night Watch Nachwacht 360

In the case of some of the more unique parts, the pair enlisted the help of Robin Bandari, who 3D modeled a number of helmets as well as a collar and partisan (a spearhead mounted on a long shaft). These 3D models were then printed by Oceanz.

“I have been amazed at how many details and tailoring hours [go into] the 17th century suits,” Ubbink commented. “Making it again by hand was a tour de force that without the enormous skill and involvement of the various experts with whom we have been allowed to work during this process [would have] never succeeded.”

Night Watch Nachwacht 360

“As a professional and Dutch 3D print company, we are proud that Oceanz was involved in the Nachtwacht 360 project. How beautiful it is to be able to bring this Dutch masterpiece from the 17th century to life with innovative and modern technology of today? 3D printing makes it possible to produce objects in the most high detail,” said Frank Elbersen, sales engineer at Oceanz. “For example, the helmets, collars and a partisan, which were seen 350 years ago by Rembrandt’s eyes, are exactly counterfeited to be able to show the general public now.”

Spanning over 4 x 5 meters, Nachtwacht 360 is exhibited on the same scale as the original Night Watch painting (including the parts which were cut in 1715). The back of the painting has also been recreated so that the spectator can walk around the work (hence the 360). The piece is also surrounded by the artists’ interpretation of the space in which Rembrandt would have painted the piece, making it feel like an authentic 17th century experience.

You can experience Nachtwacht 360 in person until August 4, 2019 at Oostenburgermiddenstraat 101 in Amsterdam.

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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