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The Mill

Rembrandt1645 - 1648

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

The Mill is one of those few paintings that are significant not only because they are beautiful but also because they have profoundly influenced the history of taste. As part of important 18th– and 19th–century collections, The Mill was well known to connoisseurs and artists who valued it as one of Rembrandt's greatest creations. The romantic aura of the scene, with the dramatic silhouette of the mill seen against the stormy sky, captured their imagination. Many stories and myths circulated about the painting, among them that this was a picture of Rembrandt's father's mill. Others saw the dark, threatening sky as a foreshadowing of Rembrandt’s severe financial difficulties of the mid–1650s.

While we may find such interpretations unfounded today, particularly after the painting’s blue sky was revealed during restoration in the 1970s, the painting still speaks to us as a powerfully expressive work. Rembrandt evokes a feeling of the forces of nature in the dramatic confrontation of the iconic mill, so central to the Dutch way of life, against the sweep of the sky. At the same time, the figures within the landscape give it a human element that we can respond to on a personal basis.

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Details

  • Title: The Mill
  • Date Created: 1645 - 1648
  • Physical Dimensions: w1056 x h876 cm (overall)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Widener Collection
  • External Link: National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • artist: Rembrandt van Rijn
  • Theme: topographical, Netherlands
  • School: Dutch
  • Provenance: Philippe II, duc d'Orléans [1674-1723], Paris; by inheritance to his son, Louis, duc d'Orléans [1703-1752], Paris; by inheritance to his son, Louis Philippe, duc d'Orléans [1725-1785], Paris; by inheritance to his son, Louis Philippe Joseph, duc d'Orléans [1747-1793], Paris; acquired 1792 with the Dutch, German, and Flemish paintings of the Orléans collection by Thomas Moore Slade, London, for an English syndicate;[1] (exhibition and sale [by private contract], The Great Rooms, Pall Mall, London, April-June 1793, no. 91); William Smith, M.P. [1756-1835], until at least 1815;[2] Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 3rd marquess of Lansdowne [1780-1863], Bowood House, Wiltshire, by 1824;[3] by inheritance to his son, Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, 4th marquess of Lansdowne [1816-1866], Bowood House; by inheritance to his son, Henry Charles Keith Petty-Fitzmaurice, 5th marquess of Lansdowne [1845-1927], Bowood House; sold April 1911 through (Arthur J. Sulley & Co., London) to Peter A.B. Widener, Lynnewood Hall, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; inheritance from Estate of Peter A.B. Widener by gift through power of appointment of Joseph E. Widener, Elkins Park, Pennsylvania; gift 1942 to NGA.[1] For the story of the dispersal of the Orléans collection in the 1790s, see William Buchanan, Memoirs of Painting, 2 vols., London, 1824: 1:[pages to come], and Denys Sutton, "Aspects of British Collecting, Part III: XIII The Orléans Collection," Apollo 119 (May 1984): 357-372.[2] Smith lent the painting to an exhibition at the British Institution in 1815.[3] Buchanan 1824, 1:195, 196.

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