14. The Night Watch self-erasure, April 1, 1950
Among the most famous paintings in the world, and noted for its large size, The Night Watch by Rembrandt von Rijn is beloved by the Dutch as a national symbol, as well as a source of national pride. It is widely considered to be the greatest masterpiece of the period known as the Dutch Golden Age. On April 1, 1950, Dutch citizens were stunned to learn, via radio, that the painting was dissolving of apparently its own accord, with little opportunity of its being saved. According to a broadcast of the Dutch national radio network, the painting was inadvertently cleaned with a harmful cleaning fluid, and was melting throughout the day. Already unrecognizable, by midnight it would be gone.
The radio broadcast caused hundreds of art lovers and students to race to the Rijksmuseum, where the painting was housed, in order to view it one last time. The length of time waiting in the queue was hours, and VARA – the Dutch national radio network – had reporters working the line, interviewing those waiting to see the painting live on the air. Many were in tears. They exited the building through an opposite door so as not to reveal to those still waiting the painting was fine and the story was a hoax. The Night Watch has been the subject of vandalism several times, and in 2019 was schedule for a full restoration, to take place while the painting remained on public display.