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Still life of fruit and a pie on a table

The Royal Collection has a stunning collection of seventeenth century Dutch art

Jan Wouwerman (Haarlem 1629-Haarlem 1666)

A Winter Scene with a Fair on the Ice 1657

RCIN 407219

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This scene belongs to a type invented by Hendrick Avercamp where a frozen river provides a stage upon which a species of spontaneous town fair takes places, with a rich variety of ages, classes and types carefully studied from life.

The frozen river scenes of Avercamp and later artists tend to include a castle to provide a solid and lasting contrast to the impermanent world of the ice fair. In this case, a semi-aristocratic country house is contrasted with a temporary beer tent set up by some enterprising profiteer and advertising its wares with a wreath, a Dutch flag and a jug slung over a pole. Around the tent men and children skate, ride in horse-drawn sleighs, push each other on sledges or punt themselves along the ice on wooden blocks.