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Pieter Bout

(1658–1719, Brussels)

The Ice Skaters. Etching. 19.8 x 27.7 cm. Hollstein 3 I (of II). Watermark: Seven-pointed fool’s cap.

During his lifetime Pieter Bout, a painter and draughtsman from Brussels, came to be known primarily for his staffage-like landscape paintings of village market, beach, port and town scenes. He was admitted to the Guild of St. Luke in Brussels in 1671 and subsequently spent several years working in Paris. He occasionally painted the figure staffage for works by other artists including Adriaen Frans Boudewyns and Jacques d’Arthois. In contrast to his painted oeuvre Pieter Bout’s corpus of prints is very modest, consisting of just five landscape etchings. Among his favourite motives in both his paintings and etchings are winter landscapes which, as in the present case, depict skaters seeking recreation and leisure on the ice.

The wonderfully rich print on offer here is extremely rare. An early impression from the uncleaned plate with numerous atmospheric wiping marks, it is absolutely on a par as regards print quality with the impression in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and even surpasses that of the impression in the British Museum in London. The artist employs a finely differentiated etching technique which produces a very intense atmospheric effect. Bout observes the activities on the ice with a sharp eye and a keen sense of anecdotal detail. Skaters glide around with graceful ease on the ice while others are engaged in animated conversation or enjoy a ride in horse-drawn sleighs. The outcome is a very lively reflection of reality. A gusty wind sends the clouds scudding across the sky and the freezing cold is all but tangible.

A superb, tonal impression with wide respectively full margins around the inky platemark. Unobtrusive smoothed hanging folds verso, minor ageing, otherwise in immaculate condition. Of the utmost rarity in this print quality and state of preser­­vation.

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