Jan Carel van Eyck is a rare Flemish painter from the second half of the 17th century. There are just a few signed (and dated) paintings known.
About Jan Carel van Eyck
Rare Flemish painter
Antwerp 1649 – after 1692 Rome (?)
Painter of genre scenes set in views of towns and villages.
He is also said to have painted portraits and biblical scenes.
Son of the painter of military scenes Nicolaas I van Eyck (Antwerp 1617 – 1679 Antwerp).
Younger brother of the genre scene painter Nicolaas II (Antwerp 1646 – 1692 Antwerp).
In 1669 van Eyck finished his training as a painter under the Antwerp painter Jan Erasmus Quellinus (Antwerp 1634 – 1715 Mechelen).
He was in Rome in 1677, as in 1907 a signed and dated winter landscape surfaced, inscribed “Roma”. According to Jan De Maere van Eyck was still recorded in Rome in 1692.
A signed Carnival scene on ice by his brother Nicolaas II, dated from 1680, and inscribed “Roma” proves that his brother was there in 1680. But he must have returned to Antwerp, where he passed away in April 1692.
Our painter’s last known painting, representing a Holy Family, dates from 1692.
There are just a few signed paintings known by van Eyck.
Jan Carel should not be mistaken for the Flemish portrait painter from the first half of the 17th century, Jan Eycke, who was active in England.
About our painting
Our painting represents a fictitious townscape with a frozen river on which numerous people are enjoying these exceptional climatic circumstances: they are ice skating, riding in a horse-towed sledge, playing kolf or watching Commedia dell’Arte actors or quack doctors on a stage.
North Western Europe went through a small ice age from circa 1550 until the middle of the 19th century.
The first very strong winter had been in 1564/1565.
Two thirds of the winters in the Low Countries between 1600 and 1700 were very cold with long periods of frost and snow. January 1684 must have been the coldest month of that century.
I should also mention that a quarter to a third of the 17th century winters have been mild, especially in the second quarter of the century.
Two men in the centre background of our winter scene are holding a kolf club, called a “kliek”: its wooden shaft ends in a heavy metal head made of iron or lead.
The development of kolf was of course tied with that of golf. In two words: one has to hit a ball (in those days made of wool covered with leather) to a target in a minimum number of strokes. Kolf is already documented as far back as the year 1200. It could be played indoors or outside. As in those days winters in the Low Countries were often very cold with long periods of frost and snow kolf became popular during winter: frozen rivers and lakes provided the ideal surface and space for kolf and also for ice skating. Both sports were often represented in paintings and engravings during the 17th century.
While golf (its idea originated in Scotland under the influence of kolf) became a spacious outdoor game, kolf turned by the 18th century inside although it could also still be played on the ice.
Commedia dell’Arte was a form of improvised comedy theatre, usually performed in the open air, often played with masked actors, which originated in Italy in the 16th century. Revolutionary was the fact that here the female roles were no longer played by men, but by women.
Many Commedia dell’Arte troupes travelled all over Europe, adapting its characters and style to the local preferences. During the 17th century it was very popular in France.
Its professional actors played very recognizable social types that were an embodiment of a certain mood. Its plots are always about sex, love, old age and of course jealousy.
Some of these Commedia dell’Arte troupes combined improvised performances with public outdoor marketplace quackery. These actors had understood that laughter engages attention and encourages relaxed spending, and they pitched their performances accordingly.
Why should you buy this painting?
Because it is a lively Flemish winter scene from the last quarter of the 17th century.