Scenes of villagers and townspeople amusing themselves on the region’s frozen lakes and canals have a long tradition in the art of the Low Countries, going right back to the work of the Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder in the mid-sixteenth century. This painting was made about 250 years later by the landscape specialist Andries Vermeulen, who was born in Dordrecht but worked for some time in Amsterdam, where he died.
It is based on the style of winter landscapes which were produced in seventeenth-century Holland, first by Hendrick Avercamp and, more particularly in this case, by Isack van Ostade. Brightly lit and dominated by the finery of the horse-drawn sleigh and its ruddy-faced occupants, this is a light-hearted work, though there are some ominous-looking cracks developing in the ice. A similar work by the artist (now in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt) is signed and dated 1800.
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