The Pegasus And The Owls

Without question, artistic depictions of skating have played a valuable role in the early documentation of the sport. Today, we will take a look at two fascinating examples from all the way back in the seventeenth century!


Published in 1627 by Cornelis Willemsz Blaeu-Laken, the book "Amsterdamsche Pegasus" served as a rare collection of rural Dutch pastoral songs of the period. Interspersed with music and lyrics in the book were ten engravings by Jan van de Velde the younger, a Dutch Golden Age painter, etcher and engraver who came from a multi-generational family of renowned artists. van de Velde was well-known for his depictions of landscapes and his art greatly influenced many renowned Dutch artists that would follow, including the legendary Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn.

Two of the ten plates that he contributed to the "Amsterdamsche Pegasus" depicted ice skating scenes. The first depicts a skater traversing on a frozen river that flowed through a town scene towards an open expanse dotted with other skaters. The second, perhaps a continuation of the first, shows a crowded river packed with well-dressed skaters forging out onto the ice, poles in hand to help steady their balance on ice and propel them along on their curly-toed iron blades.


A contemporary of van de Velde The Younger, Adriaen Pietersz van de Venne, was an extremely talented allegorical painter whose extensive body of work is peppered with several stunning skating scenes. My favourite, "Schaatsende uilen" ("Skating Owls"), has been the subject of dry scholarly debate for many years.

An interesting scholarly analysis of the piece appeared in Brigham Young University's Journal of Undergraduate Research in 2015. Authors Sarah James Dyer and Martha Peacock argued that the work depicted a "moralizing message condemning the vice of adultery and warning the male audience about the dangers of cunning women." Whatever your interpretation of these two feathered friends might be, I'm certain that John James Audobon, skating history's resident ornithologist, would have approved.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":