Cutting-Edge AI Completes Rembrandt’s Damaged Masterpiece

Although the phrase “The Night’s Watch” undoubtedly summons in your mind Game of Thrones, there was another Night Watch in pop culture long before George R.R. Martin’s defensive, chilly squad. Indeed, in 1642, Dutch painting icon Rembrandt painted a masterpiece with the same name; one that would eventually see its sides clipped. Now, however, thanks to “cutting-edge” artificial intelligence, specialists have restored Rembrandt’s masterpiece to its full glory.

Peta Pixel reported on the new, complete version of The Night Watch, which is now up at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The masterpiece originally lost slices of its canvas edges decades after Rembrandt painted it, during transportation. Whoever was moving the painting into the Amsterdam Town Hall at the time couldn’t fit the 14′ by 11′ painting through the building’s doorways. As a solve, the movers—who were the 18th-century version of The Three Stooges?—cut it down to size.

To add the strips of missing painting on properly, restorers turned to AI; because, apparently, whoever clipped The Night Watch also lost the missing pieces. (You literally had one job, movers!)

Using a high-resolution photo and small copy of the original painting made by another artist, restorers trained neural nets to identify Rembrandt’s style; particularly the way the master used color and paint strokes to achieve his signature take on light. The neural nets (that is, machine-learning algorithms that identify patterns in “big data”) then applied what they’d learned to recreate the Night Watch’s missing edges.

In the France 24 news clip above, Rijksmuseum scientist, Robert Erdmann, shows off the painting’s new/old additions. Erdmann shows where the real painting currently ends, which gives a sense of just how much the movers cut off. With the additions, however, two more complete gunmen—and a halberd-toting boy—appear. Along with more shadows, a helmet, and a chunk of bridge. You can explore all the missing pieces in detail on Rijksmuseum’s site. Although we have no idea where to go if you want to find the missing episodes from season eight of GoT.

Rembrandt's masterpiece, The Night Watch, with its missing pieces included along its edges.

France 24

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