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Winter Pleasures

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Jan Griffier I
Amsterdam 1645 - London 1718
Oil on copper plate
49 x 64 cm
Inventory number 867

1550 to 1850 was a relatively cold period in Western Europe. Known by climatologists as the Little Ice Age, it was characterised by cool summers and harsh winters. The winter landscapes of Dutch painter Jan Griffier I provide an impression of the kind of frozen conditions that are unheard in the Low Countries today.
Winter Pleasures shows a frozen world beneath a pinkish grey sky. Townsfolk of all ranks and ages have congregated on the pond to enjoy themselves on the ice. People are skating or sledding, and a well-to-do family is making a trip in a horse-sleigh. Others, in the left of the painting, are ice sailing. In the foreground, out on the ice, a man is putting on his skates. To his right, another gentleman is holding a bat known as a ‘kliek’, which was used in a popular game called ‘kolven’, a close relative to golf. It was played all year round, either on land or on ice. At the edge of the frozen pond, a vendor is selling snacks.

On thin ice?

The ice is obviously lots of fun, but apparently also quite treacherous: in the right of the picture, a woman carrying a basket of eggs has made a tumble. Some ice-skaters are helping her up. Other figures in the painting have long sticks to keep themselves upright or to save themselves should the thin ice beneath them give way.

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