The present painting by Andreas Schelfhout is a beautifully balanced composition even though many complicated pictorial elements are combined. Painted in 1839 when Schelfhout had already been awarded the highest possible distinction of a gold medal at the yearly Tentoonstelling van Leevende Meesters, the present lot is a very fine example of his mature painterly style. Similar to the masters of the 17th century, various elements from nature are selected and combined to create a new whole, allowing the artist to improve on nature itself. This concept, known as electio, was not widely used around the middle of the 19th century in the Netherlands and its re-introduction by Schelfhout was a significant contribution to the further development of Dutch Romantic art.
However, Schelfhout did not aim to merely imitate the 17th century masters, but intended to interpolate a heightened atmosphere in his work in favour of directing the viewers attention to individual elements within the painting. Schelfhout succeeded in incorporating 17th Century elements and interjecting these with his own very contemporary approach.
In addition to the various elements from nature, Schelfhout has added a group of farmhouses on the left and, interestingly, an approaching 'diligence' or four-wheeled carriage drawn by three horses on the right. It is because of these additions that Schelfhout is able to give a full display of his technical abilities like, for example, the subtle distribution of light amongst the buildings and resulting shadow in the left foreground and the wonderful play of light amidst the trees on the right. The sense of movement created by the carriage and animation of the child pointing at the ice heighten the overall liveliness of the composition.
The careful balance of light and dark and the juxtaposition of horizontal and vertical constituents all point to a possible use of the golden section, a theory which is important to a thorough understanding of Schelfhout's work. It allowed him to create a rhythmic coherence in his paintings that is as attractive and popular today as it was in Schelfhout's time.