The Windmill is one of Rembrandt's earliest landscapes. In it he used sulphur-tinting to create a grey tone to shade the buildings and simulate the chronically damp, overcast weather of the Dutch polder. Rembrandt's precise method remains unclear, but he seems to have brushed or wiped a corrosive substance, probably a sulphur paste, directly onto the plate. This pitted the surface slightly, and picked up a thin veil of ink which printed as a broad grey area resembling a wash. Technically he had difficulties with the sulphur mix, resulting in 'bubbles' at the left, and problems with the etching ground are probably responsible for the cracks in the sky.
Many attempts have been made to locate the mill, which is described in minute detail in contrast to the flat, featureless landscape. An old inscription on one impression led many to believe it was Rembrandt's grandfather's mill near Katwijk. However, it is now thought to be the so-called Little Stink Mill on the De Passeerde bulwark, at the southern extremity of a wall that ran down the west side of Amsterdam. In the distance two figures stand on the bulwark to the north, the location of another mill, known as the Large Stink Mill. Both were owned by the Leathermaker's Guild, and were used for softening tanned leather by treating it with cod-liver oil - hence their rather unflattering names. The exceptionally detailed description suggests that Rembrandt worked on the plate in situ. His drawings of the area, including one of the same windmill, are far less precise and are unlikely to have supplied sufficient visual information.