Hendrick Avercamp, Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters, oil on panel, 77.3 x 131.9 cm, 1608, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons).
Nearly 200 figures are depicted in this vibrant winter scene. A variety of people—young and old, rich and poor—are immortalised immersed in a range of activities. Some are out for pleasure, ice-skating and sledging, some are resting on an ice-bound boat. Others are working out of necessity, doing tasks such as chores, fishing and carrying reeds. The level of detail that Avercamp achieves in his compositions is remarkable, but as is his interest in depicting things that are. He represents the grim and the abject: on the left, crows and a dog feast on the carcass of a horse that has frozen to death. He has shades of humour as well: a bit further up in the composition, two figures bend over showing off their buttocks, an amusing trope that often appears in his works. Similarly, in the middle of the foreground, there is a man urinating, adding to the overall humour that can be found in the details of Avercamp’s work.