Oil on panel
39 x 54 cm
Remnants of a monogram
…; the dealer Lodewijk Houthakker (1926-2008), Amsterdam; Collection Wisch, from
the 1950s onwards; private collection, Netherlands; the dealership Douwes, Amsterdam
(as Pieter Nolpe)1
Village folk skate on a frozen waterway, play kolf and move about in sledges. On the
left foreground peasants are busy tying on skates and in the right middle zone people
have gathered at a so-called “koek en zopie” tent which sells strong drinks to keep
warm in the wintery cold. In the distance, farmhouses and a village can be discerned.
The gnarly tree trunks with their leafless branches enhance the sense of winter as does
the stale grey sky filled with pale clouds.
This cozy winter scene was until quite recently attributed to the printmaker Pieter Nolpe
(1613-14-c. 1653-54), but in fact is a typical work by the Leiden landscape artist Pieter
de Neyn. In the past works by De Neyn were often attributed to Nolpe on account of
their PN monogram. Our painting is also reported to have been inscribed with such a
In the early twentieth century, connoisseurs such as Olof Grandberg and
Karl Lilienfeld launched the hypothesis that the landscapes marked with the initials P
and N were painted by De Neyn. But it took the more comprehensive essay by the
Dutch art historian Horst Gerson of 1947 to confirm beyond doubt that Pieter de Neyn
was indeed the author of these works.3 Gerson correctly noted that no period source
reports Nolpe as having painted landscapes. He had been exclusively active as an
engraver and on top of that he seems to have started his career only around 1637, and
the monogrammed and dated landscapes are no later than that very year. So Nolpe is a
younger generation who started working when De Neyn finished his career.
Pieter de Neyn, the son of Flemish immigrants, was first mentioned by the Leiden city
chronicler Jan Orlers, who relates that he first trained as a stonemason before entering
the Haarlem studio of Esaias van de Velde as a pupil. He married in 1617 Neeltgen
Henricx van Bilderbeecq in Leiden, where he three years later was appointed the town
stonemason. His earliest recorded paintings are cavalry skirmishes reminiscent of Esaias
van de Velde and date from 1625.4 Very soon afterwards, De Neyn began to concentrate
on painting dune and river views in a style indebted to his fellow townsman Jan van
Goyen, Pieter de Molijn and Salomon van Ruysdael.
The dark diagonal band in the foreground followed by one of intense light as can be
seen here at the left, is a feature encountered in many of De Neyn’s landscapes. Typical
for the rendering of his figures are furthermore the schematic faces and their vivid
naïveté. Greatly adding to the picture’s charm are the many wet-in-wet passages. The
low horizon finally allows the imposing sky to occupy a large percentage of the scene.
A highly comparably winter view was auctioned in 1934 in Berlin (fig. 1).5
Provenance provided by Douwes, Amsterdam.2
According to the fact sheet of Douwes, Amsterdam, there was a monogram on the block of ice
in the right foreground.3
H. Gerson, ‘De Meester P.N.’, Nederlandsch Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 1947, pp. 95-111, with
further references. 4
For which see H.-U. Beck, Jan van Goyen: Künstler um Van Goyen, IV, Doornspijk 1991, pp.
337-38, nos. 931-35.5
See Beck 1991, p. 351.