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Jan van Goyen, A Scene on the Ice near Dordrecht

Key facts
Full title A Scene on the Ice near Dordrecht
Artist Jan van Goyen
Artist dates 1596 - 1656
Date made 1642
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 117.5 × 151 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought (Lewis Fund), 1891
Inventory number NG1327
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
A Scene on the Ice near Dordrecht
Jan van Goyen

Barely a third of van Goyen’s painting of life on the ice in seventeenth-century Dordrecht shows people; the rest is sky. But he still manages to pack the picture full of incident and humour. Some people squeeze into horse-drawn sledges, while others zoom across the ice or stand and chat. Some play kolf, the forerunner of golf – or miss their shot and fall over, watched by an unhelpful dog.

The air is still with a mist of frost and yet the picture seems to move – a skirt flaps, a hat skids on the ice, legs kick in the air. We know which of the skaters is practiced and moving at speed and which are beginners, clinging on, their bodies tense.

The large building on the right is the Riedijk water gate, outside Dordrecht. Further away across the frozen Merwede river, on the left, stands Merwede Castle, already a ruin by van Goyen’s time.

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