Frozen canal with colf players and buildings on both banks

Oil on panel: 9.9(h) x 13.7(w) in /

25.1(h) x 34.9(w) cm

Signed lower left with double monogram: AV DN

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BV 165



Gorinchem 1603/4 – 1677 Amsterdam


Frozen canal with colf players and buildings on both banks


Signed lower left with double monogram: AV DN

Oil on panel: 9 7/8 x 13 ¾ in / 25.1 x 34.9 cm

Frame size: 15 x 19 ¼ in / 38.1 x 48.9 cm


Painted circa 1660



Private collection, Holland

WE Duits, Amsterdam, March 1933;

Louis Rozelaar (1883-1943), Amsterdam;

by descent in a private collection, Europe



Wolfgang Schulz, Aert van der Neer, Doornspijk 2002, pp.87; 148, cat. no.84, fig. 45


Born in Gorinchem near Dordrecht in 1603/4, Aert van der Neer had settled in Amsterdam by 1628. His first dated landscape is of 1633, but he only forged his personal style from 1642, specializing in extraordinarily delicate and poetic moonlight, twilight and winter scenes. Although he sometimes painted the Dutch landscape under a glorious summer sun, he seems to have been drawn to complex and ambivalent times of day, captured only through superb tonal control on the part of the artist. Van der Neer’s first known dated winter landscape is of 1642; after 1646 he no longer dates his winter scenes. From around 1660 winter scenes dominated his output.


The genre of the winter landscape had been popularized in the first decade of the seventeenth century in the work of the deaf-mute Hendrick van Avercamp (1585-1634). His broad, high-viewpoint panoramas peopled with exquisitely-observed figures enjoying themselves on the ice were influential on van der Neer; Avercamp’s are the only winter scenes which rival Neer’s in genius. Plenty of other painters, however, essayed the genre, including Esaias van de Velde, Jan van Goyen, Jan van de Cappelle and even, occasionally, Rembrandt. The period from the mid-sixteenth to the nineteenth century in northern Europe became known as the Little Ice Age, when rivers and canals regularly froze over, goods were transported by sled and the inhabitants assuaged the rigours of winter by skating, playing colf and flocking to frost fairs.


Van der Neer’s winter scenes generally have a village or semi-urban context, a cheerful celebration of the pleasures of winter rather than – as in later works by Jacob van Ruisdael – an evocation of the season’s bleak grandeur. A handsome castle dominates the right hand side of the present painting, balanced to the left by more distant church buildings. Van der Neer uses his characteristic composition of two wedges of land leading the eye far into the distance, giving the work both panoramic breadth and great depth. Snow clouds boil up into the sky, painted with wonderful sensitivity. They catch the last rays of sunset of the short winter day and the snowy rooftops glow in the half-light. The inhabitants of the town walk on the ice, skate and play colf, a game in which the aim was to hit a ball at a small target. Played on grass in summer and on the ice in winter, it was the forerunner of golf[1]. Van der Neer’s figures, although not highly particularized, are superbly integrated within the landscape, leading the eye across the panel and giving life to the scene by careful observation of body language. A well-dressed couple with their child move tentatively across the ice, the family dog trotting behind; a man stoops to fasten a skate; confident skaters set off down the frozen canal, legs swinging. The child’s red skirt and the red sleeves of the man fastening his skate add a touch of warmth and focus the beautifully integrated ‘tonal’ landscape – both Turner and Constable were to make use of this device, learning from the Dutch masters.


Wolfgang Schulz dates this painting circa 1660, an era in which ‘we not only encounter high points in [van der Neer’s] oeuvre but in Dutch landscape painting in general’[2]. At this time van der Neer painted such larger masterpieces as Frozen river at sunset[3] (private collection; with Richard Green in 2015) and Winter scene at sunset with a beacon (Wallace Collection, London)[4]. Schulz groups the present work with a number of smaller paintings made circa 1660 ‘that are nevertheless of the same high quality’[5] as the larger works cited above. This group also includes the Winter scene on a frozen river at sunset in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York[6], which is almost the same size as Frozen canal with colf players and very similar in the handling of the clouds.


Van der Neer made endlessly fresh variations on his winter scenes, very rarely repeating compositions. He was avidly collected in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and copies were made to satisfy demand. A copy of the Frozen canal with colf players is in the Harold Samuel Collection at the Mansion House, London[7].



Winter scene at sunset with a beacon, c.1660. Wallace Collection, London.


Gorinchem 1603/4 – 1677 Amsterdam



Aert van der Neer was one of the most important European landscape painters of the seventeenth century. He was born in 1604 at Gorinchem (Gorcum), a town on the river Waal east of Dordrecht. He was the son of Egrom van der Neer and Aeltge Jansdr. In his youth Aert was for a short time a steward (majoor) in the service of the lords of Arcel just north of Gorinchem, but by 1628 had settled in Amsterdam. Nothing is known of his early artistic development or training. He is called a painter in 1629, but his first known work dates from 1632. In 1629 van der Neer was living at Herenmarkt near the Brouwersgracht. He married Lijsbeth Govers from Bergen-op-Zoom, who lived in the Warmoesstraat near the Damrak.


In his landscapes of the 1630s van der Neer was influenced both by Flemish and the Haarlem school of landscape painting. In 1633 he worked in Amsterdam with Jochem Camphuysen, whose brother Rafael he probably also knew. In 1635 van der Neer painted his first commissioned landscape, of large dimension. Although this was followed by further commissions around 1640, it is only after 1643 that van der Neer found his personal style. He excelled in extraordinary poetic landscapes of sunrise and sunset and is unrivalled as a painter of moonlight in Dutch art. Today, as in the eighteenth century, van der Neer’s winter scenes rank in critical estimation with those of Hendrick Avercamp (1585-1634).


Van der Neer’s first real evening landscape was the painting of 1643 now in Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha. In the second half of the 1640s he explored the changing effects of light in late evening or at night, reflected in rivers, lakes and marshes. His first really remarkable paintings of this kind are the moonlit river landscape of circa 1646 from the Six Collection, now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and the townscape by moonlight in the Museum Bredius at The Hague. There is a fine comparable riverscape in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt. This phase of van der Neer’s development culminated – after the huge summer landscapes of around 1650 – in small, jewel-like paintings for collectors’ cabinets, which he executed in the 1650s.


From 1659 to 1662 van der Neer kept a tavern on the Kalverstraat, while continuing to paint winter landscapes of the highest quality. In December 1662 he was declared bankrupt. He continued to paint, probably until the beginning of the 1670s. In spite of being one of the most outstanding landscapists of the seventeenth century, van der Neer died in poverty in Amsterdam on 9th November 1677. His son Eglon van der Neer (1634-1703) became a successful genre painter while Johannes (Jan) van der Neer (1637/8-1665) followed his father as a landscape painter.


The work of Aert van der Neer is represented in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; the Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam; the Mauritshuis, The Hague; the National Gallery, London; the Wallace Collection, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Louvre, Paris.



[1] See Bergen op Zoom, Gemeentemuseum het Markiezenhof, Colf Kolf Golf, exh. cat., 1982.

[2] Schulz, op. cit., p.87.

[3] 18 1/4 x 27 5/8 in / 46.2 x 70.2 cm. Schulz, ibid., pp.85, 87 and 191, cat. 233, colour pl.13.


[4] 21 ½ x 27 in / 55 x 69 cm. Schulz, ibid., p.134, cat. 30, fig. 43.

[5] Schulz, p.87.

[6] 9 1/8 x 13 ¾ in / 23.2 x 34.9 cm. Schulz p.138, no.43, fig. 46. See Walter Liedtke, Dutch Paintings in the Metrpolitan Museum of Art, New Haven and London 2007, vol. I, pp.510-511, no.131 (titled Sports on a frozen river), illus. in colour.

[7] Schulz, p.136, cat. 34, fig. 327.

Old MasterAert van der Neer