This painting, a collaborative work between the painters Thomas Heeremans and Abraham Storck, depicts the frozen Oude Schans canal in Amsterdam looking north towards the docks. On the left of the composition stands the Montelbaanstoren. This impressive brick tower originally formed part of the walls of the city and was used as a sentry for Dutch soldiers keeping watch for invading enemies. The original tower was built in 1512 with the decorative spire and clock being added in 1606 by the architect Hendrick de Keyser (1565-1621). Later in the century, the clock tower was nicknamed Malle Jaap (‘Silly Jack’) because of its failure to keep accurate time.
The Montelbaanstoren was a recurrent subject for painters working in Amsterdam. As one of the city’s most significant and important landmarks it featured heavily in paintings made by local artists during the 17th century and was even included in works by artists like Rembrandt and Jacob van Ruisdael. The present view of the canal, however, is a little less typical. Many other views of the Oud Schans canal are painted from the opposite direction facing away from the docks, whereas here the docks are shown with a line of tall-masted ships and a bridge which could be raised in the middle to allow them to pass in and out of the city.
Heermans was a Haarlem born artist, active during the last quarter of the 17th century and renowned for painting snowy landscapes. His collaborator, Abraham Storck, who painted the figures in the present work, was a successful landscape painter in his own right and had an extremely popular and successful career in Amsterdam. Storck painted the Montelbaanstoren tower numerous times and also treated it in a second collaboration with Heeremans in 1682 (sold Sotheby’s, London, 6 December 1995, lot 48).
Marijke C. Kinkelder of the RKD, The Hague, has confirmed the attribution of this painting on the basis of a photograph.