An Inn by a Frozen River
In the Dutch Republic at this time, paintings were a means of entertainment - scenes of outdoor life were meant to hold moments of interest that had to be teased out. Although it's not immediately evident, this picture does exactly that.
The huge expanse of sky is grey; the pub roof is almost falling in; the tree raises stark, bare branches; and a white horse hangs its head under a threadbare blanket. But in among the greyness there are warmer colours and moments of relief. At one side of the snow-filled sky is a tinge of pink: the sun isn't far away. Winter flowering plants bloom in the thatch of the dilapidated inn.
The picture was once thought to be by Isack van Ostade, a skilled Haarlem a...