Rembrandt van Rijn


Rembrandt’s many landscape drawings chronicle his walks in and around Amsterdam. Their topographical accuracy often makes it possible to identify the exact spot where they were drawn. This sheet was made on the elevated defensive rampart of the city. Only the rooftops of certain houses to the right are visible. The windmill whimsically called the Smeerpot (Grease Pot) faces away from the rampart at right, while at left Rembrandt depicted a long row of low buildings that served as a rope factory.

Rembrandt van Rijn
Dutch; 1606–1669
The Bulwark De Rose and the Windmill De Smeerpot, Amsterdam, ca. 1649–52
Pen and brown ink and wash


Rembrandt, The Bulwark De Rose and the Windmill De Smeerpot

This is one of the finest landscape studies by Rembrandt. Particularly mesmerizing is his phenomenal depiction of the light reflections on the buildings and trees. Rembrandt knew exactly where to place his brush to create shadows with board washes, and where to keep the paper blank to suggest sunlight.

The old-fashioned mill known, as the Grease Pot, was used to grind rye and wheat, and was advantageously placed high on top of the Bulwark. Its body could be turned to face the wind by using the wooden struts.

In the background, two small figures provide a sense of scale to the different levels of space so brilliantly represented in the composition. The prominent letter F in the bottom left corner is the collector's mark of Nicolaes Flinck, son of Rembrandt's pupil Govert Flinck. Nicolaes inherited his collection of 500 drawings from his father.

The drawing was acquired from Nicolaes' Estate in the early 18th century by the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth, where it remained until 1987.