Overview

Rich and poor mingle on the frozen waters of a river. From the lower left corner, a man quietly observes the many skaters. At the center, well-dressed ladies ride in an elegant sleigh driven by a groom; the horse’s shoes are spiked for traction on the slippery surface. Two little boys in the right corner play a game of colf (or kolf), a cross between modern-day hockey and golf. And in the background, sledges transport people and commercial goods on the frozen waterway.

Avercamp, who combined the Dutch love of landscape with scenes of daily life, was among the first European artists to specialize in depictions of winter. The pearly gray tonality here becomes ever paler and the forms less distinct as they move into the distance, subtly conveying a sense of deep space on a frosty day. The setting may be the IJssel River at Kampen, the Hanseatic town northeast of Amsterdam where Avercamp resided most of his life. Mute since birth and likely deaf as well, Avercamp was called "de Stomme van Kampen," meaning "the Mute of Kampen." Despite this disability, Avercamp had a successful and independent career as a painter of popular winter scenes.

Inscription

lower left in ligature: HA

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Said to have been at the Imperial Hermitage Gallery, Saint Petersburg.[1] (D. Katz, Dieren), by 1933; J.M.B. Beuker, Heelsum, by 1934;[2] by inheritance to his widow, Mrs. J.C. Beuker [née De Kruyff van Dorssen]; sold 5 April 1967 through (A. Martin de Wild, The Hague) to NGA.

Exhibition History

1933
Kunsttentoonstelling van 17e Eeuwsche Schilderijen, Gemeentelijk Museum, Zutphen, The Netherlands, 1933, no. 45.
1934
Tentoonstelling van Schilderijen van Oud-hollandsche Meesters uit de Collectie Katz te Dieren, Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem, 1934, no. 45.
1938
Meesterwerken uit Vier Eeuwen 1400-1800, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1938, no. 52.
1969
In Memoriam, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1969, unnumbered checklist.
1997
Rembrandt and the Golden Age: Dutch Paintings from the National Gallery of Art, The Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, 1997, unnumbered brochure.

Bibliography

1934
Niehaus, Kasper. "Oudhollandsche meesters in het Frans Halsmuseum." De Telegraaf, 29 (November 1934): 7.
1934
W., J. "Een Collectie der Firma D. Katz te Haarlem." Nieuwe Arnhemsche Courant (22 November 1934).
1938
Hannema, Dirk. Meesterwerken uit vier eeuwen, 1400-1800. Exh. cat. Museum Boymans, Rotterdam, 1938: no. 52.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 2, no. 2315, repro.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 14, repro.
1978
King, Marian. Adventures in Art: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1978: 54, 56-57, pl. 32.
1979
Welcker, Clara J. Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634), bijgenaamd "De Stomme van Campen" en Barent Avercamp (1612-1679), "Schilders tot Campen". Edited by D.J. Hensbroek-van der Poel. Rev. ed. Doornspijk, 1979: 216, no. S73.3.
1982
Blankert, Albert. Hendrick Avercamp, 1584-1634; Barent Avercamp, 1612-1679; Frozen Silence: Paintings from Museums and Private Collections. Exh. cat. Waterman Gallery, Amstersdam; Provenciaal Overijssels Museum, Zwolle. Amsterdam, 1982: 55 n. 25.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 287, no. 372, color repro.
1985
National Gallery of Art. European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. Washington, 1985: 33, repro.
1986
Sutton, Peter C. A Guide to Dutch Art in America. Washington and Grand Rapids, 1986: 305, repro.
1995
Wheelock, Arthur K., Jr. Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, 1995: 9-14, color repro. 11.
2001
Spolsky, Ellen. Satisfying Skepticism: Embodied Knowledge in the Early Modern World. Burlington, 2001: 146-147, fig. 7.3.

Conservation Notes

The support, a single oak panel with a horizontal grain, has been thinned and a cradle attached. Dendrochronology shows the panel to be from a tree felled between 1606 and 1616.[1] Triangular wood inserts replace the bottom right and left corners. The wood grain is quite prominent, due to increased transparency of the aged oil paint and moderate abrasion overall. A thin, smooth, white ground layer is followed by a coarse, granular, gray imprimatura. The horizontal, striated strokes of the imprimatura application, visible through the thin sky, are incorporated into the design of the foreground figures.

Paint was applied in thin, smooth transparent layers with more opaque paint used in the details and white highlights. Very fine contours were applied around the figures with liquid black paint. While discrete losses are few, the paint surface has been heavily abraded, most notably in the sky near the right and along all four edges. Some figures in the middle ground were almost totally reconstructed when the painting was restored in the early twentieth century. The horse and most foreground figures have also been reinforced, sometimes quite inaccurately (see text). No conservation treatment has been carried out at the National Gallery.

 

 

[1] Dendrochronology by Dr. Peter Klein, Universität Hamburg, February 12, 1987 (letter in NGA curatorial files).

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