Who would expect the famous fusiliers from the squadron commanded by Captain Frans Banning Cocq, as portrayed in 1642 by Rembrandt, to leave the canvas and to become a three dimensional bronze sculpture? But this time, not in the seventeenth century but in the twenty first century Holland.

The concept of this thoroughly unique project was conceived by two Russian sculptors – Mikhail Dronov and Alexander Taratynov. The history of art has known nothing of the kind to date. The sculptors have created something fundamental and professional. They have modelled, sculpted and cast in bronze the figures of the 22 fusiliers; their exuberant outfits, arms, and various accessories. They, as it were, threw down the gauntlet to, everyday perceptions of the famous “Nightwatch” painting.

So, at first you feel surprised and perplexed while getting acquainted with the Russian sculptors’ materialized idea; what on earth have they done it for? And this issue can be considered from several angles.

The first point of view: M. Dronov and A.Taratynov tried to breathe new life into the legendary classical work of art. “Rembrandt, the martyr of light-and-shade” (O.Mandelstam), solved problems of interaction of his characters on the flat surface of the canvas. Now, organizers of potential exhibitions may illuminate or put the Dutch fusiliers ‘in the shade’ in many different variations, creating a historical or modern background for them. Rembrandt’s characters are sculpted in the traditional realistic manner of the academic Russian school. Western Europe has already forgotten this school, commending itself completely to “high-brow” art-criticism scholastics lapsing into the newest fashionable tendencies.

The second point is that of a spectator. The purpose of the transition into bronze is to “give the spectator an opportunity to feel as if they are inside a painting” (A.Taratynov). Entering, playing, taking pictures, shooting videos of their relatives with the “Nightwatch” characters, and performing a kind of “spectators’ happening”. For children and adults this is ‘literally’ an act of getting inside of art. After this game interaction, the next meeting with the painting will be definitely perceived in a new way. A journey through the sculpture’s “looking glass” and back, to the Rijksmuseum halls, is a wonderful cognitive route from the twenty first century to the seventeenth century, back again.

From commercial and promotional point of view, this project by Dronov and Taratynov is absolutely unique. It’s no wonder the sculptors had their idea registered with the Russian copyright bureau and its counterpart in Washington D.C. Their project is a real museum godsend in many ways. This object should increase museum attendance, promoting the creative work of Rembrandt’s masterpiece, an event of news media proportion, and another reason to print postcards, brochures, calendars, posters, etc.

The “Nightwatch 3D” project is an innovation in the continuation of the original museum piece’s life. The fact that it is realized in the method of time-tested realistic sculpture does not, in any way, belittle its innovative importance.

William Mailand
September 2004, Moscow


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