OF FRANS BANNING COCQ AND WILLEM VAN RUYTENBUCH,
KNOWN AS THE NIGHT WATCH
by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn
The Night Watch, one of Rembrandts most famous paintings, is a group portrait
of a division of the civic guard. Rembrandt depicted the group of militiamen in
an original way. He did not paint them in neat row or sitting at their annual
banquet, rather, he recorded a moment: a group of militiamen have just moved into
action and are about to march off.
Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn is certainly the most famous of Holland's seventeenth-century
painters. He was born in 1606 in Leiden, the fifth son of the miller Harmen Gerritsz.
van Rijn. After attending Latin School he registered in 1620 at Leiden University,
although he never actually graduated. Rembrandt studied under the Leiden painter
Jacob van Swanenburch and under Pieter Lastman in Amsterdam. It was through Lastman
that he discovered the powerful contrast of light and dark of Caravaggio and his
followers. Back in Leiden he set up together with Jan Lievens as an independent
artist, with his own studio and his first pupil: Gerard Dou.