What just happened? The Night Watch, a painting from 1642 made by the Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn that was cropped over 300 years ago, has been restored to its former glory through the power of AI. By recreating the cut parts, Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum was able to remake the piece whole again.
We've seen all sorts of applications of AI, from improving the image quality of a video call to creating photos from doodles. However, restoring a trimmed painting to its original state is something that we haven't seen yet. That's until Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum decided to do it with 'The Night Watch' from Rembrandt.
The painting was completed by Rembrandt in 1642 and had to be cropped 70 years later to fit a smaller wall after they moved it from the militia's clubhouse to the town hall. Until now, no one knows what happened to the pieces that were cut.
The restoration was only made possible due to a smaller copy painted by Gerrit Lundens. For over two years, the Operation Night Watch project's team made over 528 digital exposures to create an accurate and detailed photo so that the AI model could learn Rembrandt's style and then copy it to create the missing parts.
Now restored, the painting is being exhibited in the Honor Gallery in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, where visitors can easily distinguish the surrounding restored parts. These parts add some interesting new details, including two men and a boy at the left and few more details surrounding the trimmed painting. Moreover, it's also much clearer that the boy that previously looked like he was running is actually leaning over a rail.
Before this process, the painting had already undergone another significant restoration over 40 years ago due to the slashes inflicted by a man with a knife and the noticeable blanching on the canvas.
If you want to learn more about the painting and how the team restored it, you may visit the project's official page.