The present winter scene, set at Brussels' Grote Markt, is a miracle of miniature painting. Its main motif is an elegant red sleigh drawn by a galloping black stallion adorned with a richly coloured, lavish harness and wearing feathers on its head. Massive throngs have gathered along the square to view the spectacle. The scene is painted with such precision that the passengers in the sleigh can easily be identified as Archduchess Isabella and Archduke Albert, sovereigns of the Southern Netherlands.
Isabella of Spain (1566-1633), daughter of the Spanish King Philip II, is invariably depicted with the type of impressive large ruff also shown in this small painting. Her spouse, Archduke Albert VII of Austria (1559-1621), wears the Order of the Golden Fleece. The red, white and blue of the decoration on the horse and sleigh no doubt allude to Albert's and Isabella's coat of arms, which includes the same colours.
The present lot may well depict a historical event. A winter scene by Denis van Alsloot, court painter to Isabella and Albrecht, depicts a carnival on a square in Brussels, this time probably the Grand Sablon, and features horse-drawn sleighs as well.1 Van Alsloot often painted real events such as processions and festivities. The painter of this small gem was probably another artist working for the Brussels court.2
1 Formerly with the Jonckheere, Paris. See for this painting: Tableaux de maîtres flamands et hollandais des XVIe et XVIIe séicles : Cranach, Brueghel, Teniers et leurs contemporains : vingt ans de présence à Paris : 50e exposition, exh. cat. 2003, no. 21.
2 See for a survey of painters working for Isabella and Albrecht: M. de Maeyer, Albrecht en Isabella en de schilderkunst : bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van de XVIIe-eeuwse schilderkunst in de zuidelijke Nederlanden Brussels, 1955. Willem van Deynum (c. 1575-1624) was one of the artists employed in court service in these years and documented as a miniature painter, but by this is probably meant, gouache on parchment, as attested by a signed Christ in the Gethsemane Gethsemane auctioned at Galerie Fischer in Lucerne as lot 4017 on 12-15 April 2000. However, prior to that, when Van Deynum worked in Genoa, he also produced life-sized full-length portraits in oils.