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IIIF Actions
unknown artist seventeenth century
Formerly attributed to Jan Wyck, ca. 1645–1700
Frost Fair on the Thames, with Old London Bridge in the distance
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
25 1/4 x 30 1/4 inches (64.1 x 76.8 cm), Frame: 32 1/4 × 36 1/2 × 2 3/4 inches (81.9 × 92.7 × 7 cm)

Label on verso, upper left: "Painting in England, 1700-1850 | The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Richmond 20 | Artist: Unidentified Artist | Title: 'Frost Fair on the Thames' | Medium: Oil on Canvas Cat. No. 1 | Insure for: Sales Price: | Lender: Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon | Address: Upperville, Virginia | (Please fill in and attach securely to work before sending to museum)"; upper center: "L 278722 | [logo] | Allied Van Lines | 45 | Pat.No. 3,489,499"; upper right: "Printed [...] | Allied | 3 | Reg. No. | [...] 3 | Printed in US[...]"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
audiences | bears | booths, exhibition | bridge (built work) | buildings | bulls (animals) | carriages | carts | churches | circle (plane figure) | cityscape | costume | dog (animal) | fair | flags | frost | frozen | genre subject | horses (animals) | ice | market (event) | men | monument | people | rings | river | selling | sleds | snow | spectators | stairs | stands | steeples | tents | tower (building division) | walking | winter
Associated Places:
England | Europe | Greater London | London | Thames | Tower of London | United Kingdom
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

Early modern Europe experienced a “mini ice age” with temperatures plunging well below anything normally experienced in the temperate island of Britain. The winter of 1683–84 was so cold that a “Frost Fair” was set up on the frozen river Thames. According to the courtier and diarist John Evelyn, horse and coach races, puppet plays, bullbaiting, musical performances, cooking, and drinking all took place on the ice, and even brothels were set up. This picture of the festivities shows Old London Bridge in the background. At left, behind the Tower of London, is the Monument to the Great Fire of 1666. The ice was a novelty but also disastrous, locking up waterways so that ships could not enter or leave the river. Frost split open trees as if lightning had struck them, and birds, fish, exotic plants, and even humans perished in the bitter cold.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016

Old London Bridge, with its many arches, formed a barrier that interrupted the flow and tidal fluctuations of the River Thames. During the "Little Ice Age," extreme temperatures occasionally caused the river to freeze over. Londoners delighted in this novelty and ran continuous "frost fairs" on the river. This one took place in the winter of 1683-84, when the ice was almost a foot thick, and lasted for ten weeks. The newly finished "Monument" (to the Great Fire of 1666) and the turrets of the Tower of London are clearly visible near the north end of Old London Bridge (left), while rows of market booths form a "street of tents" between Temple Stairs in the left foreground and the south bank (right). The crowds that gather in two circles a little way downstream are watching the appalling spectacle of bull- and bear-bating.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2005

Royal River (National Maritime Museum, 2012-04-27 - 2012-09-09) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

All The Queen's Horses (National Horse Racing Museum, 2003-04-26 - 2003-08-23) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Pleasures and Pastimes (Yale Center for British Art, 1990-02-21 - 1990-04-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 30-31, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Matthew Hargraves, "Yale Center for British Art joins Art UK", ArtUK, 24 June 2019, Available online https://artuk.org/discover/stories/yale-center-for-british-art-joins-art-uk [Website]

Painting in England 1700-1850 : collection of Mr. & Mrs. Paul Mellon : Exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, , 1,2, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, 1963, p. 37 (v.1), no. 1, pl. 227, ND466 V57 v.1-2 (YCBA) [YCBA]

David Starkey, Royal river, power, pageantry and the Thames , Scala Books, London, England, 2012, pp. 60-61, no. 24, DA670 T2 R69 2012 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

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