It’s damn cold in the Little Ice Age

Hendrick Avercamp - On the Ice. c. 1610 (Mauritshuis, The Hague)

Here Avercamp painted a typically Dutch subject. In winter, when the rivers and canals froze, everyone – young and old, rich and poor – went outdoors in search of fun.

As a setting for these wintry amusements, Avercamp chose a frozen canal in a village with farmhouses, haystacks, a windmill and a wooden drawbridge. The people amuse themselves by skating, sledging, playing kolf or simply standing around, watching and gossiping. Avercamp also shows the dangers of the ice, though. A skater has fallen in front of the bridge and – a humorous touch – her bare bottom shows beneath her skirts.

Avercamp was the first Northern Netherlandish painter to specialise in winter landscapes, a subject that became popular in Flanders towards the end of the 16th century. The sources reveal that Avercamp was a deaf-mute, but with a paint brush in his hand he could talk a mile a minute. His depictions are chock full of anecdotes.

Mais no site do Mauritshuis.


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