Andreas Schelfhout was one of the most applauded landscapists of his time, universally admired for his beautiful winter scenes. Building on a grand tradition that had blossomed in the 17th century, Schelfhout acquired international fame with his perfectly balanced compositions, superb brushwork and masterful depiction of the ice and sky. Impressed by the tranquil poetry of his winter scenes, one critic exclaimed in sheer admiration: ' one could not paint more exquisitely' (quote from the Dutch art magazine Kunstkronijk, 1852).
Schelfhout was the son of a guilder and frame maker from Gent and worked in his father's business up to the age of twenty-four. In 1811 he was apprenticed to the stage designer Johannes Breckenheimer, where he studied four years. Because this was the only formal education he received, Schelfhout liked to see himself as self-taught, 'nature' being his teacher. His unique talent surfaced for the first time on the exhbition 'Living Masters' in Amsterdam (1818), where one of his winter landscapes received much critical acclaim. It marked the beginning of an immensely successful career. Up to the present day, Schelfhout is seen as the first and foremost painter of winter scenes.
The present lot is without any doubt one of Schelfhout's masterpieces. Comparable to the one in the Rijksmuseum Twenthe, which is regarded by connaisseurs as the best of his winter scenes, this work is of outstanding quality. The wonderfully detailed figures, some gathered around a refreshment stall, others cheerfully skating, and the superb treatment of the translucent ice with its scratches and reflections have been rendered with great natural quality, bathing in a subtle light.
Unique in its unusual large size, it is an impressive example of Schelfhout's unsurpassed virtuosity.
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