1626/29 Haarlem - 1676 Haarlem
Winter Landscape with Peasants and Ice Skaters by a Tavern
Oil on canvas (relined). 71 x 95 cm.
Signed lower left: K Molenaer.
David Koetser Gallery, Zurich. - Private collection, Switzerland.
Researchers have long been uncertain regarding the family relationship of the Haarlem-based artists Jan Miense and Claes Molenaer, but new archival finds have recently revealed the two to be brothers. However, Jan Miense was married to the lady painter Judith Leyster, who is known to be 18 years older than Claes. The family of artists was completed by the third brother Bartholomeus Molenaer, who also worked as a painter, and the sister Maritge who married the painter Pieter Florten. The youngest brother Claes Molenaer concentrated on landscape painting in all its facets, from river and canal views to dune landscapes to village and town vedutas. However, his winter landscapes occupy a special position in his œuvre, and the present work is an especially finely painted example in an interesting format.
Winter landscapes were still a relatively new genre in Claes Molenaer's times. They only began to be emancipated from depictions of the four seasons in the early 17th century due to the decisive impetus of Hendrick Avercamp. The compositional scheme used in this work with its dominant diagonal architectural motif was often utilised by Molenaer to create direct and realistic scenes and was based on a composition developed by Esaias van de Velde who was also from Haarlem. In a manner typical of his winter pictures, Molenaer has enlivened the scene with numerous figures at work and play. Whilst some are shown sleigh riding or ice skating, others stand chatting and watching the busy scene or transporting wares on sleds and yokes.