Lot 6
  • 6

Hendrick Avercamp

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
1,810,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Hendrick Avercamp
  • A Winter Scene with a Windmill and Figures on a Frozen River
  • signed with the monogram lower left:  HA (in ligature)
  • oil on panel
  • 24 x 33 cm


Private collection from about 1950, where attributed to the circle of Pieter Brueghel the Younger;
By whom sold, London, Christie’s, 6 December 2007 (“The Property of a Lady”), lot 54;
David Koetser, 2007.


Washington, The National Gallery of Art, Hendrick Avercamp: The Little Ice Age, 21 March 2010 - 5 July 2010.

Catalogue Note

A Winter Scene with a Windmill and Figures on a Frozen River is a consummate example of Hendrick Avercamp’s ability to capture life outdoors during "The Little Ice Age." Inspired by the paintings of his great predecessor, Pieter Breugel the Elder and his Flemish followers, Avercamp chose the winter landscape as his primary subject matter and turned it into a uniquely Dutch genre.   In fact, when the artist’s monogram was obscured by the initials PB (since removed), the Weldon panel was thought to be the work of Breugel; it is now fully recognized as by Avercamp.1

Setting his paintings in the typical landscape of the Northern Netherlands, Avercamp depicted the day to day activities that brought his countrymen and women out onto the ice:  skating, kolf, fishing or just a stroll with the family.  In the Weldon picture he creates an iconic Dutch locale, with a windmill, a farmhouse and a familiar but unidentifiable fortified city in the distance.  The scene is shown from a low viewpoint so that we are immediately drawn into the picture.  Within the landscape are people of all types and classes, which the artist places in singles, groups and pairs that at first seem almost haphazard, but are carefully arranged to pull the viewer’s eye  past the ice-bound boats, towards  the city and eventually to the distant horizon.   Avercamp draws them with strong outlines and then roughly colors them, some in bright shades, so they stand out against the paler colors of the ice.

While the people are lively, the landscape is the bleak vista of northern Europe in mid-winter, tempered by the faint glow of the setting sun.  Avercamp deftly recreates the feeling of the winter sky, sketching in gray clouds with short, swirling strokes and off-setting them with long straight lines of pink and yellow to suggest the sunset. The ground itself is almost colorless, but he enlivens it with scattered patches of white snow.

We know very little about Avercamp’s life and it has been difficult to establish a chronology of his works because so few of his pictures are dated.  However, the overall composition, with its small figures and the absence of large trees or buildings framing the edges of the picture, can be compared to his paintings from the second decade of the century.  These include a Winter Landscape in Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland (inv. no. 647) and Winter Landscape with a Windmill in a private collection, both of which are datable to circa 1610-20.2  They also both include windmills and fortified towns, though the scale of these elements is quite different in the two pictures. 

1. See Provenance.
2.  See P. Roelofs, in Hendrick Avercamp, Master of the Ice Scene, exhibition catalogue Amsterdam and Washington, 2009-10, pp. 51-53, reproduced figs. 46 and 48, for the dating of these pictures.