Hendrick Avercamp, Ice skating in a Village, oil on panel, 35.7 x 70.4 cm, 1610, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons).                

Between c. 1550 to 1850, the north-west of Europe went through a period of extremely cold winters known as the Little Ice Age. In the Netherlands, two thirds of the winters between 1600 and 1700 were so cold that the country endured prolonged periods of frost and snow. Thick ice covered the waterways that were so crucial to transport. This brought much of public life to a standstill. Precisely in the period when Avercamp was active did the Netherlands experience its harshest winter. In his winter landscapes, Avercamp represents this daily life. On the left hand side we see a woman kneeling down to do washing, in the middle we see couples gliding hand in hand over the ice and children playing a form of ice hockey known as kolf. As well as showing the pleasures of winter in a public space, Avercamp also reveals the possible dangers. On the far left corner, a group of people have fallen into the water while onlookers watch them trying to emerge. In the centre of the composition toward the back, Avercamp depicts a woman who has just fallen over with her bare buttocks visible under her skirt.