Alexander van Bredael, in fact the complete dynasty of van Bredael painters, specialised in happily animated landscape painting.
I know of at least three similar winter compositions by our painter. In winter all layers of society mingled on the ice; representations of such a richly ornate horse-towed sledges are rare.
About Alexander van Bredael
Antwerp 1663 – 1720 Antwerpen
Painter of animated, happy scenes:
- Italianate summer and winter landscapes
- town-views (with processions) of Antwerp
- cattle markets and of fairs.
Third son and pupil of Peeter van Bredael, who strongly influenced him, both in the choice of subjects and stylistically.
Alexander became a master in the Painter’s Guild of Antwerp in 1685.
He belonged to a family, a dynasty of Antwerp painters, amongst whom:
- his father, Peeter (1629 – 1719),
- his brothers Jan Peeter I (1654 – 1745) and Joris (1661 – 1708 or later),
- his son Jan Frans I (1686 – 1750),
- Joris’ sons Jan Pieter II (1683 – 1735) and Joseph (1688 – 1739).
They all specialised in lively landscape views.
Our Alexander van Bredael had several pupils:
- best-known was Peter Snijers (1681 – 1752),
- but also his own son Jan Frans I and Johan Baptist Govaerts.
About the attraction of painted winter scenes
North Western Europe went through a small ice age from circa 1550 until the middle of the 19th century.
The harsh weather conditions during winter change the light, the air, the atmosphere, the colours. This must have been a first challenge for painters. The pleasures and businesses of winter formed a very attractive subject for the painters, for their clients and still do for us.
About our painting
Democracy still rules on frozen waterways: in winter all layers of society mingle happily on the ice:
- the very rich have come to the frozen river with their carriage and then they take place in elaborately decorated horse-town sledges;
- less prosperous people come to ice skate, or just to eat and drink.
Alexander van Bredael has painted several winter landscapes with ice skaters and horse-towed sledges. I actually found three variations on our composition. Though unsigned ours seems to have the most intricate content. These four town-views seem to hold the middle between Rome, Lyon and Vienna, three towns that Flemish painters regularly visited.
Alexander’s younger brother Joris has painted a winter night view of the Inner Hofburg in Vienna: Emperor Joseph I and the high nobility set of with richly ornate horse-drawn sledges for a trip in the candle-lit squares and streets of the Habsburg capital. Was Alexander inspired by his brother’s description of such an event when successfully painting our painting and its three other versions? Horse-towed sledges do not often appear nor in Flemish nor in Dutch winter scene. The right sledge seems very special with its intricate figurehead, reminding of similar sculptures found at the prow of contemporary ships.
At the right side of our composition stands a tent with a Dutch flag. Merchants would set up shops on the ice of frozen lakes, rivers and water ways. People could eat and drink in a typically Dutch “koek-en-zopie” tent. This term refers to the food (“koek” means “biscuit”) and beverage that one could and still can buy while ice skating: “zopie” was made of “bock”, which was a strong German lager, mingled with rum.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because very few winter landscapes hold such a nicely decorated sledges.