In this winter landscape, aristocrats, burghers, countrymen, and orphans take to the ice of the frozen Amstel River. From a young boy propelling himself with sticks on a prikslee (small push-sled) to the group of three stately men with no skates conversing by the riverbank, each of Van Breen's figures colorfully brings to life the possible actions and interactions of a winter's day on the ice. On the right, a man and woman hand-in-hand glide with the wide stride typical of Dutch 17th-century skating. The man's green jerkin and gold breeches tied at the knees with ribbon and the woman's black vlieger, a long garment worn over the bodice and skirt, reflect the height of early 17th-century fashion. As they skate, a young boy from the Amsterdam Burgerweeshuis (city orphanage), recognizable by his red and black shirt, approaches them clasping a kolf stick. Further back, men and women leisurely glide together, and a pair of boys race alongside a painted, pink mill.
Unlike many winter scenes that represent imaginary locales, this evocative landscape depicts an identifiable location on the Amstel River just south of Amsterdam. The profiles of three of the city's churches are visible in the distance: the large, wide building at the left is the Nieuwe Kerk; the distant church to its right with a tall steeple is the Oude Kerk; while the third church nearest the Amstel is the Zuiderkerk. Remarkably, the painting also depicts a large house surrounded by a painted wooden fence that can be seen on a contemporary map of the area.
on gable of manor house: 16011
D'Estampes family, Château d'Ancise, Douy, France; (sale, at the Château de Cheverny by Philippe Rouillac, 7 June 2009, no. 40); (John Mitchell Fine Paintings, London); purchased 12 March 2010 by NGA.
- Landsman, Rozemarijn. "Adam van Breen, Skating on the Frozen Amsetel River." National Gallery of Art Bulletin 43 (Fall 2010): 32, repro.
- Mitchell, William J.. "Adam van Breen (ca. 1585-1640)." Gallery Notes [John Mitchell Fine Paintings], Special Edition (February 2010): 13-16, repro. 15, as Winter Landscape with Skaters.
- Mitchell, William J. "Foreword." Gallery Notes [John Mitchell Fine Paintings] (June 2010): repro., as Winter Landscape.
- Landsman, Rozemarijn. "Schilderachtig Borssenburg. Schaatsen op de Amstel door Adam van Breen." Amstelodamum 98-1 (January-March 2011): 18-30, fig. 1, figs. 3, 4, 8 (details).