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The Cover
May 16, 2001

The Mill

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2001;285(19):2420. doi:10.1001/jama.285.19.2420

For decades it has been one of the most popular paintings at the National Gallery of Art and certainly one of the most loved. It has also been one of its most controversial. Once called by an enthusiastic scholar of great renown "the greatest picture in the world. The greatest picture by any artist," the work has called traditional beliefs into question, it has caused to be revised, if not outright destroyed, some lovely myths, and it has shaken art lovers to their roots by daring to ask such fundamental questions as "What is a work of art?" If it has divided scholars, however, it has united such disciplines as art and science, radiography and art history, European and American culture and politics, economics, even philosophy and religion. When the painting left England for the United States in 1911, after having been there almost since its departure from France at the end of the French Revolution, well over 20 000 people came to London to see it over a two-day farewell exhibition. The painting in question is The Mill (cover ); the artist is Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669) who painted it sometime between 1645 and 1648, and the subject is sometimes thought to be Rembrandt's father's windmill. Even today, however, despite the technology available (or perhaps because of its plethora), neither the date nor the attribution nor the subject is accepted by all scholars. Its story, whose twists and turns are as gripping as those of the finest mystery thriller, is recounted in some detail by National Gallery curator Arthur K. Wheelock, Jr, in the Gallery's systematic catalogue (Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. Washington, DC: 1995).