Rembrandt, 1642, etching, drypoint and engraving on laid paper
Plate: 8 3/8 x 11 1/8 in. (21.3 x 28.2 cm)
Sheet: 8 11/16 x 11 5/16 in. (22.1 x 28.8 cm)
Gift of the Estate of Jean K. Weil in memory of Adolph Weil Jr., Class of 1935, 2013.7.2
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Rembrandt, 1641, etching on laid paper
Overall: 5 3/4 x 8 1/16 in. (14.6 x 20.5 cm)
Gift of Jean K. Weil in memory of Adolph Weil Jr., Class of 1935; PR.997.5.105
Rembrandt produced landscape etchings at two different moments in his career: once in the 1640s, the other in the 1650s, with his earlier cycle constituting more detailed studies of nature and the environment. In The Windmill (1641), Rembrandt illustrates his mastery in etching by depicting the so-called Little Stink Mill—an actual windmill that stood on the De Passeerde bulwark, site of the Passeerder rampart along the city wall of Amsterdam—named after the unpleasant smell it produced. The mill was owned by the Chamois Leathermakers Guild, who used cod liver oil at the mill to soften tanned leather. Although drawing en plein air was not yet a common practice, it is likely that Rembrandt first sketched the mill and its surrounding landscape on site and furnished it later with details in his studio.
In this epoch, windmills were not only literal symbols of Holland; they constituted crucial tools and visual elements of daily life in Amsterdam. Mills were used to grind corn and barley, as well as pump to water to prevent flooding on the mainland. In this etching, Rembrandt specifically depicts a windmill in possession of unique character and an idiosyncratic persona; it is both identifiable as a landmark and generalized as an entity, an integral aspect of the Dutch landscape and Dutch national identity. In The Windmill, therefore, Rembrandt transforms a landscape into the very portrait of Amsterdam itself.
Rembrandt’s fascination with windmills and their singular contribution to the landscape of Holland continued in his painting of The Mill (1645), a depiction of Rembrandt’s father’s windmill on the banks of the Rhine river.
Rembrandt, 1641, etching on laid paper
Overall: 5 7/16 x 13 1/16 in. (13.8 x 33.2 cm)
Gift of Jean K. Weil in memory of Adolph Weil Jr., Class of 1935, PR.997.5.102
In this etching, Rembrandt employs a stark dichotomy between the immediacy and detailed nature of cottage with the recessive, amorphous quality of the skyline and topography behind it. The character and color of the sky, shaped by Rembrandt’s masterful use of shading, translates the depth, temperament, color, and feeling of the Dutch atmosphere into an artistic sphere.
As in his Three Trees, Rembrandt retains an interest in human vignettes decoratively placed in the midst of a grandiose landscape. He populates the scene with figures fishing on the dock, two figures framed in the windows of the cottage, and a female figure carrying an umbrella and purse walking on the terrain. They seem at ease with the land and conjoined inextricably with their surroundings, symbols of Dutch national pride and quintessential inhabitants of Amsterdam. Many facets of the cottage itself are also worthy of note: the slightly dilapidated state, its low elevation, its commingling with the nature around it. Just as the cottage houses its inhabitants, serving as a site of reprise, peace, and freedom, the Dutch landscape and sky houses the cottage and the Dutch landscape, crafting a pastoral harmony between nature and domesticity.
Rembrandt, 1650, Etching and drypoint on laid paper
Overall: 2 5/8 x 7 in. (6.7 x 17.8 cm)
Gift of Jean K. Weil in memory of Adolph Weil Jr., Class of 1935, PR.997.5.99
The second moment of Rembrandt’s landscape etching production manifested a fascination with making quotidian Amsterdam and the ordinary Dutch landscape his predominant subject, a choice that leaves many of these images without a central focus. As a result, the viewer experiences a rich sense of the totality of the landscape, and its seemingly infinite nature as it pertains to its inhabitants. In this etching, a laboring man on the far right, rendered as insignificant in size compared to the grandiosity of the landscape as a whole, carries two milk buckets, a loyal dog following beside him. His surroundings recede into generality behind him, perhaps suggesting a fog as well as the seemingly infinite nature of the Dutch landscape. The work also speaks to the Dutch people’s unique relationship with their terrain; an extensive land reclamation project in the Netherlands resulted in the development of drainage systems powered by the now-iconic Dutch windmills. The Dutch did not simply conquer territory: they created it. With such a direct connection to the land, and in the absence of a feudal system, Dutch families often worked on their own farms, and subsequently developed an intimate association with the Dutch countryside. Here, despite the milkman’s small figural size, the vast breadth of land before him suggests that he is not overwhelmed by the land, but rather interfused with it. In this etching, Rembrandt seemingly ties multiple elements together to form a cohesive narrative between nature and humanity, from the vegetation to the domestic architecture to the lightly sketched boats floating on the water in the background.
Rembrandt, 1651, etching and drypoint on laid paper
Overall: 4 3/4 x 12 1/2 in. (12 x 31.8 cm)
Gift of Jean K. Weil in memory of Adolph Weil Jr., Class of 1935
Mistakenly named after the so-called home of the Goldweigher, a portrait etching by Rembrandt, this landscape is in fact based on the Saxenburg estate of Bloemendaal, owned by Christoffel Thijs, the man who sold Rembrandt his house in Amsterdam. The St.-Bavokerk of Haarlem can be seen in the distance. Rembrandt was deeply in debt and behind on his mortgage payments at the time he produced this print.
The panoramic nature of the landscape space, with a curving sweep and gentle undulations, is unique to Rembrandt’s work, even his etchings. Patches of drypoint burr suggest the diffusion of light, haziness of the atmosphere, and bleakness of the fields. It is likely that Rembrandt sketched this scene outside on the high dunes of Bloemendaal.
Rembrandt, 1652, etching and drypoint on laid paper
Overall: 3 1/4 x 6 7/8 in. (8.3 x 17.4 cm)
Gift of Jean K. Weil in memory of Adolph Weil Jr., Class of 1935, PR.997.5.101
In his second series of landscape etchings, Rembrandt was far more concerned with capturing the emotional atmosphere of the landscape than he was in representing every detail of his subject matter. Specifically, Landscape with a Haybarn and a Flock of Sheep serves to merge the peculiarities and banality of daily life in 17th-century Amsterdam with the characteristically rainy and cloudy Dutch weather, which, combined, function to illustrate the duality between the Dutch realms of the domestic and the natural. Three figures on the far left look toward the vast land that expands before them. A shepherd with his flock of sheep is buried with sketchy detail beneath, while other animals are situated in other areas of the work, the figural outlines of which are so incredibly generalized that they seem to fuse with their natural surroundings. Here, again, the Dutch weather is also prominently featured, the specifically hazy grayness casting a feeling of humidity, thickness, and fog that translates to both the emotional and tactile senses.