- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 12, 2009

AMSTERDAM (AP) - “Night Watch,” one of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings, was part of a series of portraits by leading Dutch artists of his day, and was meant to be displayed alongside the others, the Netherlands National Museum said Thursday.

The Museum published the findings of a study it commissioned on the background of the large painting _ 14.3 x 11.9 feet (4.37 x 3.63 meters) _ including matching the known names of the people portrayed with their faces for the first time.

Museum spokeswoman Elles Camphuis said the study had found “Night Watch” was originally “part of an unbroken frieze” that lined the walls of the Great Hall of the civic guard building where it was kept.

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Because the painting was so different from the other five, it seems that “Rembrandt did not adhere to the terms of his commission,” she said.

The study was conducted by art historian Bas Dudok van Heel, who was not available for comment. The Museum endorsed his conclusions.

Rembrandt painted the group portrait of Capt. Frans Banning Cocq’s militia company in 1642 when he was 36.

Unlike other artists who lined up their stiff-looking subjects in black formal attire, Rembrandt created a scene full of action, with men in varied and colorful outfits waving a standard, beating a drum, loading muskets or brandishing pikes as they marched from a darkened archway into the light.

Barely discernible in the rear of the painting is an image of Rembrandt himself, showing just one eye and wearing a painter’s beret, peering over the shoulder of the standard bearer.

Around 1715, the painting was moved from the civil guard headquarters to Amsterdam’s Town Hall _ now the Royal Palace on Dam Square. At that time the canvas was cut on all sides to fit into its new space, including a broad strip on the left that cost the painting two figures and essential elements giving it perspective.

A list of names presumed to be the people in the painting was attached, but without identifying who was who.

Dudok used a variety of evidence from historical archives to put names to faces, the museum said. For instance, some of the specific clothing and accessories shown in the painting were listed in later estate inventories.

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