The Windmill, 1641
Rembrandt van Rijn
etching on cream laid paper
14.7 x 20.7 cm
Gift in memory of Margaret Wade Labarge from her collection, 2010
National Gallery of Canada (no. 43099)
Rembrandt’s landscape etchings are celebrated for their realism. Most are considered to have been freely composed from pencil and ink sketches made during his walks on the outskirts of Amsterdam. The Windmill was probably of great personal significance for the artist. The print is believed to show a windmill that once stood on Amsterdam’s Passeerde bulwark. It was nicknamed the Little Stink Mill because of the activity practised there by leathermakers of softening tanned hide by treating it with cod liver oil. Rembrandt here depicts in detail the design of the then-new smock mill with its cap on the top that rotates according to the direction of the wind. Barely discernible are a miller standing at the foot of a ladder with a sack on his back and a woman tending to her chores, all giving a spontaneity and rustic charm to the scene.