"Night Watch", 1642; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
The Night Watch is misnamed because of a very dark varnish that covered it until the 1940's. It should be titled The Company of Captain Frans Cocq. It is a group portrait of a company of civil guards under the command of Cocq and his lieutenant, Willem van Ruytenburch (in light garb).
This painting was successful. The fact that some members of the company are partially obscured by the action did not cause the work to be condemned, as has been suggested. In this painting Rembrandt solved the problem of the group portrait in such a dynamic way that few after him could ever again sit or stand their subjects in a static line or static grouping. Rembrandt shows Cocq and his men in motion: their lances are askew, their muskets are out of order, and they all project a sense of the vitality of their mission. The canvas is gigantic and was originally even larger. In this group portrait Rembrandt captures the personality of the entire company.
p. 353-354, Humanites: The Evolution of Values by Lee A. Jacobus, (C) 1986 McGraw-Hill.