Speaking of the Rijksmuseum…

Some of you might remember the greatest of all flashmobs that was created to celebrate the reopening of the museum and the return of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch to its original location. It’s been more than two years since I posted it, and I still regularly rewatch the video. It’s just so, so good. A quick refresher for those of you not as obsessed as I or for anyone who may have missed it the first time:

The only bad thing about that sublime video is that it’s too short. I said at the time that I wished there were a director’s cut so we could see more of the story as it unfolds. Well, there isn’t a director’s cut, but there’s a making of video! It was uploaded a week after the first one and since I watched the embed on the blog entry rather than going to the YouTube channel, despite my repeated viewings I didn’t realize the second one was there. I’m making up for it now, though. I’ve already watched it three times. I love the curator puttering around like a kid at Christmas fixing people’s costumes and props. Click the CC icon for English subtitles.

There’s one thing I wish they’d addressed that has niggled at me all these years: why did they cast the taller man as Willem van Ruytenburch (in the fabulous yellow outfit) and the shorter man as Frans Banninck Cocq (in the center with the red sash)? In the painting van Ruytenburch’s shortness is very noticeable, and since he was Banninck Cocq’s lieutenant, their comparative height was a meaningful distinction that communicated their difference in status. The curator sniffed about the purple outfit one of the guards was wearing as inaccurate. Surely he had something to say about the choice to make van Ruytenburch so tall.

13 thoughts on “Speaking of the Rijksmuseum…

  1. I missed this first time round, so glad you revisited it. Delightful! I loved the video and like you, charmed by the curator’s fussing and obvious great enjoyment of his character’s. Also wish it had been much longer, to enjoy seeing how this wonderful flashmob event was put together. It was amazing theatre.

  2. dont bother visit, first,after all the rebuilding it is still to small and crowded.
    the night,s watch, best seen on the screen of your computer.
    it is nowher near as fine lined painted as the portray it to be on comercials.
    if you can stumic the crowed and work your way treu them to watch the painting from left and right angle you are sure to be altho excelent painted to leave disapointed for no other reason than, you should not have watched the comercial about the museum.
    the whole museum is higly overrated, 15 years the same old thing 17 century mostley,
    there are better museums in the Netherlands ,google what you want to see and ignore the rijksmuseum.
    ps, dutch film and acting sucks.
    greets kor …netherland

    1. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit since the renovation, but from the photos I’ve seen, the recreation of the original painted wall decorations alone makes it a masterpiece. As for the crowds and having to view the works from a distance and weird angles, I’ve been in the Sistine Chapel a dozen times. Every one of those times it was crammed full of humanity and the money painting is very, very high up on a ceiling. That doesn’t make it not worth visiting.

      The Netherlands has many great museums. I’d love to see them all.

  3. Thank you for re-posting this. It’s brilliant. Although I am Dutch, I didn’t see this before.
    I wondered if there would be anything in the Dutch text about the height of the actors but there isn’t. The curator (who is only credited as an expert on “The Night Watch” so I don’t think he is actually the curator at all) does mention he is “a great fan” when greeting Bannick Coq, so I guess that may be the better known actor but why they would cast such a tall man for Ruytenburch, I can’t figure out.

    And I don’t entirely agree with Kor’s comment. Yes, the “Dutch Masters” galeries of the Rijksmuseum still get very crowded but there is a lot more in the museum and I think everything is very well presented. And it makes sense that a large scale painting like this would not be highly detailed when viewed close-up, it is Rembrandt’s later style too.
    There are many museums in the Netherlands where you can get a closer look at the exhibits and where the displays change more often but I don’t think that makes the Rijksmuseum bad. It just serves a different purpose.

    Oh, and I don’t think the acting sucks in this video.

    P.S. Have you read about this other bit of Dutch history news: An international team of researchers has recently begun to read 2600 undelivered letters from all over Europe which were kept by 17th century postmaster Simon de Brienne. Most of the articles about it are only in Dutch but the website dedicated to the project is in English: http://brienne.org/unlockedbriennearchive/
    The trunk of letters was in the archive of a museum in my home town and they host the project website. Unfortunately, their normal website isn’t clear about whether or not visitors to the museum can see any part of the research in real life. I plan on going there next week to find out though.

    1. I was hoping you’d comment, Lauriana. 🙂 Do you recognize any of the actors? I assumed they were cast for their horsemanship and ability to rock a 17th century look more than for their fame.

      I did read an article about the Brienne archive, but I haven’t explored the website yet. Such a wonderful resource. Please let me know what you find when you to the museum.

  4. I agree: the tall man was the horseman, and the shorter man who played the scofflaw clearly was an expert in aerial stunts– much more critical than getting nit-picky about recreating details in the painting. The re-creation at the end captured the spirit of the painting beautifully, and the “story line” of the enactment set it up. I still say Bravo! for an excellent piece of theatre!

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