Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq, also known as The Shooting Company of Frans Banning Cocq and Willem van Ruytenburch, but commonly referred to as The Night Watch, is a painting by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn.
The painting is renowned for three characteristics: its colossal size (363 cm × 437 cm), the effective use of light and shadow, and the perception of motion in what would have traditionally been a static military portrait.
The painting was completed in 1642, at the peak of the Dutch Golden Age of painting. It depicts the eponymous company moving out, led by Captain Frans Banning Cocq (dressed in black, with a red sash, and his lieutenant, Ruytenburch Willem van Ruytenburch (dressed in yellow, with a white sash). With effective use of sunlight and shade, Rembrandt leads the eye to the three most important characters among the crowd, the two gentlemen in the centre (from whom the painting gets its original title), and the small girl in the centre left background. Behind them, the company's colours are carried by the ensign, Jan Visscher Cornelissen.
Rembrandt has displayed the traditional emblem of the Arquebusiers in the painting in a natural way: the girl in yellow dress in the background is carrying the main symbols. She is a kind-of mascot herself: the claws of a dead chicken on her belt represent the clauweniers; the pistol behind the chicken stands for 'clover'; and, she is holding the militia's goblet. The man in front of her is wearing a helmet with an oak leaf, a traditional motif of the Arquebusiers. The dead chicken is also meant to represent a defeated adversary. The color yellow is often associated with victory.
Another interpretation proposes that Rembrandt designed this painting with several layers of meaning, as was common among the most talented artists. Thus, the Night Watch is symmetrically divided, firstly to illustrate the union between the Dutch Protestants and the Dutch Catholics, and secondly to evoke the war effort against the Spaniards. For instance, accordingly to Rembrandt's multilayered design, the taller Captain (in black) symbolizes the Dutch Protestant leadership, loyally supported by the Dutch Catholics (represented by the shorter Lieutenant, in yellow). Moreover, all characters of this painting were conceived to present double readings.
Rembrandt sees this painting in his art class, making him decide to go by 'Rembrandt'. He points at it and asks his art teacher to show him how to paint like that.