This large outdoor winter scene in a giltwood frame was painted in the Netherlands in the 1600’s. It was in the early to mid 1600s that Belgium and the Netherlands experienced what is known as “the little ice age”. Scientists can now confirm that there was a period of volatile climatic shift, resulting in frigid winters in Northern Europe. Dutch waterways were often frozen solid, and the genre of winter skating scenes became a popular subject for artists. The painting seen here measures 67 inches across (framed) and is a beautiful example of this type of art. To depict a tranquil winter day, the artist utilized white, gray, and brown as main colors. Blue, red, and green are used as highlights to draw attention to your eye.
In the foreground, three people gather around a fire at the base of some trees. One of the trees has been chopped in half, with the top portion at a nearby woodcutting station. An axe is still embedded in the trunk and the tree was most likely felled to provide fuel for the fire. Behind the makeshift firepit there is a frozen pond with some moored boats, including what looks to be an early example of a houseboat.
Several people can be seen traversing the ice by foot, including a man pushing a sleigh with a passenger sitting inside. Another man is walking an animal along the shore. Behind the man is a village with a water mill, an aqueduct, and a walled off castle. Billows of smoke are rising from a chimney behind the wall.
Dark clouds and mountains dominate the background while there are a few buildings on the other side of the shore tucked between the mountains and a row of evergreens. The painting is surrounded by a simple giltwood frame with hints of red bole beneath the gold.
The style of the painting is reminiscent of the Dutch Golden Age painter Nicolaes “Klaes” Molenaer. Molenaer was born in Haarlem, Netherlands in 1626. Not much is known about Molenaer’s life, except at least two of his brothers were also painters. The majority of Molenaer’s works are landscape paintings and he was greatly influenced by Jacob van Ruisdael, the pre-eminent Dutch landscape painter.
CONDITION: Good antique condition with visible craquelure. Minor nicks to the giltwood frame. Wired on the back for hanging. Canvas has been relined and likely old touch ups.