Title   Molenaar (Search for the image)
Translated title Miller
Intro Text by dr D. Barnes, accompanying Bramer’s drawing of a grain miller (`graan molenaar’)

Code of occupational group 77120
Description A miller is seen from the back carrying a very heavy grain sack on his left shoulder. He leans the sack against his cap-covered head and supports it with his raised right hand. He walks towards a mill at the right. Two of the mill's wings are visible, covered with canvas sails. At the far left, a curly-haired woman walks with the miller. Her face is turned to talk with him. In the background behind the mill, there is a cart loaded with grain sacks. The spire of a church and roofs of buildings can be seen in the distance.

Windmills dotted the Dutch countryside and their uses expanded in the 17th century. Millers ground grain, either wheat or rye, imported from the Baltic region to produce flour for baking; and mills took the husks off barley. However, mills were also used industrially. There were sawmills in lumberyards, oil mills grinding rapeseed or linseed, jute mills, and tobacco mills to produce snuff, mills grinding lead and pigments to produce paint, mills pulverizing rags to produce paper, mills producing starch, and others producing soap. Some mills relied upon wind-power, others used animals to turn the millshaft. Watermills were far less common in Holland than windmills. Some 15 mills were located either on the city's walls, high enough to catch the wind, or on the outskirts of Delft.

Windmills appear in Dutch landscapes, prominently featured in "The Mill at Wijk" (1665) by Jacob van Ruysdael (Rijksmuseum) or serving as background detail as in "Polder Landscape with Fishermen and Farmers" by Arent Arentz, called Cabel (Rijksmuseum). Their silhouttes are seen as skyline details in ice scenes, such as Hendrick van Avercamp's drawing of the "Ice Scene with Wind- mill" (Amsterdam Historical Museum) or city scapes.

The miller was a figure represented in Jost Amman's mid-16th century woodcuts for the Ständebuch, and in the 1646 Roman edition of etchings based on Carracci. However, millers were not often the subjects of Dutch paintings. At the end of the 17th century, Jan Luyken included the miller among his illustrations of tradesmen and artisans in het Menselyk Bedryf.

Source Donna R. Barnes, Ed D, Street scenes, Leonard Bramer's drawings of seventeenth-century daily life (Hofstra Museum exhibition 1991). Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York.

Click here for the introductory essay on Bramer's drawings.

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