Friday, March 19, 2010

old Dutch ice skates

detail from Hendrick Avercamp's winter scene painting, circa 1625

The large lecture hall was set up with a small table in the center full of antique ice skates and papers the speaker brought to show.

He invited all 50 or so audience down to have a look after his talk and slide show.

He was very enthusiatic story teller seen here waving a hand over one of his books to help explain.

Mr. Anrie Broere on left and Arthur Wheelock Jr. curator of northern baroque painting NGA , demonstrate how couples held hands while on the ice in the old days.

This afternoon I had the pleasure of attending a small talk by an elder Dutchman, Mr. Anrie Broere who collects antique ice skates and has skated all his life. He has over 700 pairs and knows the history of ice skating like it was his own personal history. He came to Washington's NGA to add background to a new exhibition of small paintings on display through July where some of his fine antiques skates are on display with paintings by Dutch Master: Hendrick Avercamp of the early 1600's. Avercamp was mute and from a family that allowed him to learn the art of painting in Amsterdam. Eventually he specialized in painting and drawing winter scenes on the ice that were very popular. There was plenty of ice and snow during the so called "Little Ice Age" which was a cooling of Europe which saw winters come early and leave late and temperatures average below freezing all through the mini ice age. The paintings are charming and full of examples of skaters doing everything imaginable thing on the ice. Today Mr. Broere told us a Dutch saying that goes "ice is the great equalizer of men" or something like ice skating is completely democratic no mater how high your station in life everyone takes a fall sooner or later. He gave his talk in English but had a rather thick Dutch accent that made some of the details a little hard to follow but he was clearly well prepared and had experience talking about the history of skating. I suspect he talks to children school groups at home. The slides he showed were magical illustrations and old photos from early 20th and late 19th century skaters. Everyone in Holland used to get around on the ice because there is so much water that going by road in wet winters would have been too slow and difficult on the muddy roadways. Boats were used in warm weather for much trade and transportation and when winters were cold and froze all the water they used sleds and skates and even ice skating boats powered by sails and cold winter winds.

Sunday March 21st 2:00 PM the introduction promises to a very interesting introduction to the artworks themselves when Pieter Roelofs, curator of 17th century paintings, and Bianca M. du Mortier, curator of costume, Rijksmusuem, Amsterdam come to open the show with a lecture on the artists and the costumes of his day.
below the link to the exhibition's web page with a slide show and other information.

The movie Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates was a movie I saw as a kid many times and it captured my young imagination. What it would be like to skate for miles on the frozen winter canals using those funny little strips of metal tied onto your boots? Today's speaker showed us very old skates and told us about the real race that is a 125 mile long circuit done in one day that travels to 11 cities. He skated that race three times finishing it when thousands of others gave up. It begins before dawn and finishes after dark, over 12 hours rushing across uneven ice over rivers and lakes and canals. Those who finish the whole circuit are called heroes and I can understand why. Nothing like it exists in modern day sports on ice. I was very lucky to learn more about this exciting Dutch pass time today. Thanks to whoever brought Mr. Anrie Broere over to Washington DC and the NGA to give his talk and show his skates.

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