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 be freely composed from pencil and ink sketches made during his walks on the outskirts of Amsterdam. Rembrandt scholars have repeatedly attempted to recognize "The Windmill" as of great personal significance for the artist. Now generally accepted, however, is Frits Lugt's 1915 comparison of the print with a pencil drawing in the Bremen Kunsthalle depicting the same mill in Amsterdam's Passeerder bulwark. The etching includes magnificent details such as weathered straw cladding, carefully delineated roof tiles, narrow doorframes, and mossy overgrowth. There is no mistaking 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 who stoops to tend to her chores, all suggesting spontaneity and rustic charm.