Tag Archive for: Dutch painting

Doe je schaatsen aan!

(Put your skates on!)

Skating in Holland

     Winter Landscape with Ice Skaters (circa 1608)

Hendrick Avercamp
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam


Skating in Holland – Hendrick Avercamp was one of many to paint the Dutch winter and the young Dutch Republic’s obsession with skating on so-called ‘natuurijs’: frozen lakes, canals and rivers. We still love skating on natuurijs and we go into a frenzy if there is even a small hint of a severe frost as this might mean that we could be looking forward to the Great Race: the Elfstedentocht.


Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Tour)

Friesland, one of the northern Dutch provinces, is home to many canals and lakes linking cities and villages. In particularly cold winters the ice grows 15cm and is considered strong enough to kick off a long-distance skating competition along the eleven oldest cities and villages linked by water: Leeuwarden, Sneek, IJlst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindeloopen, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker, Dokkum, then returning to Leeuwarden, a distance of 200 km. First thought to have been completed in 1670 (Wikipedia), the Elfstedentocht is an endurance race with plenty of frozen eyeballs and fingers. The race of 1963 is known as “The hell of ’63”, where only 69 of the 10,000 participants were able to finish the race due to the extremely low temperatures of -18 °C, powder snow and a harsh eastern wind (Wikipedia).

Skating in Holland
Skating in Holland: The Elfstedentocht of 1954 – click to see the video.
Wikimedia Commons


Plummeting temperatures will hold the nation on the edge of their seat for days, while the Heads of District measure the thickness of the ice. The Dutch then get into a near-frenzy when the go-ahead is announced and the race is started within 48 hours. I remember the winters of 1985 and 1986 – it was a wonderful temporary national insanity.

Only held 15 times in the 20th century, the last Elfstedentocht was 24 years ago. We’re due for one!



The Dutch Tulip: heritage cultivars

From my garden:
Zilver Standaard
Dutch tulip, 1760

zilver standaard tulip 1760


One of the latest Dutch heritage tulips to surface in my garden is also one of my favourites: the Zilver Standaard, a Dutch tulip which hails from 1760. It is part of my heritage tulip collection spanning the 16th to the 19th centuries – all sourced from the friendly conservation team at the Hortus Bulborum in Limmen, Holland.

It is a relatively strong tulip; stronger than the earlier 17th century cultivars. It has a yellow base and white petals which show red flames. Some tulips have more red flames, some fewer, so there is quite a variety within the same cultivar. While very beautiful, this cultivar should not be confused with the flamed tulips of the 1600s, which only showed the famous and popular ‘broken’ colour due to a mosaic virus. This, unknown at the time, weakened the tulip plant and eventually pushed it to extinction.

Only one broken 17th century Dutch tulip cultivar remains today: the Zomerschoon (1620). This tulip appears to have developed tolerance. I was able to get hold of a few Zomerschoon bulbs last year – the buds are now showing and I’ll show you a photo when, after 4 years of waiting for this tulip, I can finally paint it.