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
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.