The present lot is a surprising composition by Andreas Schelfhout. In the majority of his paintings staffage is a decoration for his landscapes. His views of Dutch winter landscapes are worked out to the smallest details: the frozen water is depicted with the reflections, cracks and scratches which one can find in real life. His figures are also worked out beautifully, but they are often placed further towards the horizon, because he frequently applied a bird's-eye-view in order to portray a large part of the landscape.
However, through his collaboration with Joseph Jodocus Moerenhout the figures in the current lot are no longer just embellishments but have become the subject of the painting. Unlike Schelfhout, for Moerenhout figures were the leading theme of his compositions. The emphasis on the figures was maintained because Moerenhout would paint his works seen from a lower point of perspective than Schelfhout, depicting his figures from eye-height and closer to the picture plane.
The current painting is a wonderful merging of the techniques of both artists. The dark threatening sky forebodes a coming snowstorm and grey tones are coarsely applied to accentuate the cold conditions of a day on the ice. The anatomical correctness of the animals is remarkable with all the muscles and sinews just below their skin visible.
What is so striking about the present lot is that the figures and the landscape are not two separate features, but can be considered as one. The positioning of figures complements the landscape in its perspective. In the landscape the various lines are positioned in such a way that the vanishing point is almost centred, just left of the small house. Furthermore, the vanishing point is stressed by the diagonal cracks in the ice. The group of figures is positioned exactly in front of this point, at the converging of the diagonals. But the true unification of the two artists is in the frozen waterway: Moerenhout's staffage is reflected in Schelfhout's ice, fusing both artist's particular qualities into one masterpiece.