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New lights turn Rembrandt's "Night Watch" to day

A security guard stands next to Rembrandt's "Night Watch" painting, illuminated by newly installed LED lights in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Oct. 26, 2011.
AP Photo/Peter Dejong

AMSTERDAM - Rembrandt's "Night Watch" may need a different nickname after the painting has been put under new lighting that makes it look like a day scene.

The change is startling, as characters once barely visible now stand out in vivid color.

The 1642 painting was commissioned for one of Amsterdam's citizen militias and is officially titled "The Company of Frans Banning Cocq."

Director Wim Pijbes of the national Rijksmuseum said Wednesday the painting — widely considered Rembrandt's greatest masterpiece — may in fact only have acquired the "Night Watch" title because of a dark varnish that was removed decades ago.

He said the new LED lighting system custom designed by Philips mimics daylight, helping return the work to its original dynamic, colorful appearance.