Art & Sculpture

Oceanz recreates Rembrandt’s Night Watch with 3D printing

Dutch 3D printing service bureau Oceanz has helped in a unique project concerning The Night Watch painting by famed 17th century painting Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. Through Nachtwacht 360 artists have recreated the tableau of the famous painting using real people. 3D printing was used by partner Oceanz to make realistic props helping to bring the artwork “to life.”

As stated in the Nachtwacht 360 exhibition description, “What is invisible in paint, will be brought to light in this photograph […] Take a look over Rembrant’s shoulder and experience scenes from the life and oeuvre of the painter himself.”

The creation process of Nachtwacht 360, showing the modern look-a-like (top left), the original painting (top right), and the finished image with the 3D printed Burgonet helmet (bottom). Image via Nachtwacht 360.

Nachtwacht 360

The Night Watch is the iconic painting of Dutch master Rembrandt at the peak of the Dutch Golden Age. As the original work is currently under live restoration at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, Nachtwacht 360 offers an alternative way to experience this remarkable work of art.

The centerpiece of Nachtwacht 360 is a true-to-size photographic replica of the 1642 painting, created by photographer Julius Rooymans and fashion designer Hans Ubbink. For the project 25 look-a-likes, including a doppelganger of Rembrandt himself, were scouted from across the Netherlands to take part. Dressed and posed exactly as characters in the painting, the scene was photographed from both the front and the back giving a new, unseen view of The Night Watch.

Alongside the centerpiece 35 high-resolution portraits and 3D printed objects made specially for the project will also be displayed.

3D printing props from the 17th century

Despite the painting’s colossal size (363 cm × 437 cm), there is a great amount of detail in the 17th century outfits. “Making it again by hand was a Tour de force,” commented Ubbink. Without the enormous skill and involvement of the various experts, […] this process would have never succeeded.”

To accurately recreate the scene, the project sourced authentic 17th-century harnesses, weapons and helmets from Dutch collectors. A careful study by a weapon expert and the Army Museum however concluded that some of the objects in the painting were entirely from the imagination of Rembrandt. To bring these elements to life, the artists, collaborating with experts from Rijksmuseum and the National Military Museum, combined 17th-century and contemporary techniques for the replication. First, they reached out to digital manufacturing provider 3D Hubs for production support, and at that point were redirected to 3D artist Robin Brockotter to design and create the helmets, collar and partisan. At this point, Brockotter suggested that 3D Hubs manufacturing partner Oceanz would be perfect for the project due to their high-quality SLS capabilities. 

The production process of 3D printed props. Image via Oceanz.

3D printing for cultural heritage

Headquartered in Ede, the Netherlands, Oceanz specializes in giving businesses access to additive manufacturing technologies, such as SLS, SLA and SLM. The company’s recent acquisition of fellow service bureau Hejicon Solutions has also broadened material choice and production possibilities. 

Previous projects undertaken by Oceanz have included other artful projects, such as the ‘Braindrain’ dress by  Maartje DijkstraA popular tool for fabrication in the arts in general, 3D printing is proving especially valuable where cultural heritage is concerned too. Recently, Google Arts and Culture and Rekrei were able to recreate the Lion of Mosul, a 3000 year-old statue destroyed by ISIS. A project at UCLA also recently used the technology to reconstruct the ruins of Tiwanaku in Bolivia.

Nachtwacht 360 will be exhibited at Oostenburgermiddenstraat 101, Amsterdam from 4 July to 4 August 2019.

The 3D-printed partisan. Image via Oceanz.
The 3D printed partisan. Image via Oceanz.

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Featured image shows Rembramdt’s The Night Watch painting. Image via Nachtwacht 360.