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Allegory of Winter by Sebastiaen Vrancx, estimated €140,000-180,000 at Dorotheum in Vienna.

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The painting belongs to a complete series of four seasons which was sold together in 1927 in Brussels. At that time the now partly illegible monogram and full date 1608 could still be read. The current whereabouts of the other three seasons from this group is not known.

The composition here is in two parts: in the background is a winter scene with a castle by a lake, children at play and butchers slaughtering an animal. It the foreground is a display of traditional winter foodstuffs as well as household implements.

On the other hand there are symbols of the seasonal feasts, including bread and pancakes eaten at the festival of Sinterklaas on December 5-6, and a hat with a paper crown, traditionally worn at Epiphany.

A mask with a red costume is a reminder of carnival, the event that marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

From 1927 the painting belonged to a private collection and was sold at Sotheby’s, London, in 1983 for £26,000. It resurfaced there again in 2014, when the present owner bought it for £180,000.

The experts at Dorotheum are a bit more cautious: the estimate is €140,000-180,000.

dorotheum.com