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The Night Watch (1642) is one of the most famous paintings in the world - but why? In the seventeenth century there were plenty of group portraits of militiamen and their weapons. Five other paintings of such companies hung in the great hall of the Kloveniersdoelen alone - and The Night Watch was relegated to a place in the corner. And yet Rembrandt far surpassed his colleagues. The figures in his painting fused into a vibrant and dynamic entity, as if the company is marching out of the canvas. It is so real you can almoast hear the beat of the drum and the clatter of weapons.
At least as interesting is the history of The Night Watch, how it came by this disrespectful and inaccurate title, and the probable identities of the subjects - the real as well as the imaginary ones. In the Rijksmuseum, the immense canvas has been presented from the outset as the pinnacle of seventeenth-century Dutch painting - a position The Night Watch occupies to this day.