Wolfgang Beltracchi, 2018
The Cruel Comet
Artistic voice: Hendrick Avercamp, 1618, Kampen
Oil on wood, 27 x 22 cm

»Theologians and astronomers, scholars and the less scholarly, Protestants and Catholics, not a one was in any doubt during the winter of 1618: the comet threatened mischief, with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War, Pestilence, Famine and Death. This was a fearsome event, but there was still room for hope because the prophecy was not regarded inevitable from the outset. The comet was a warning to humans: it heralded what would befall those who closed their eyes and ears to signs from God. Only repentance and conversion to a God-fearing way of life could now provide relief. This included recording the war in chronicles and autobiographical texts to clarify the exact meaning of the omen for the future. In 1648, the chroniclers were certain of what the comet of 1618 had predicted: the stubborn disregard of the warning and a war lasting thirty years.«

Professor Andreas Bähr, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt on the Oder

In the years between 1570 and 1630, the temperatures in Europe were particularly glacial. In the Netherlands, numerous winter landscapes were created in this first cold period of the Little Ice Age, a global cooldown. Hendrick Avercamp generally depicts the more cheerful side of these long winters that actually caused significant suffering in the daily lives of the population. Comet C/1618 W1, which appeared in the skies over Europe in November 1618 and which was even visible during the day, points to the plight of humanity and the social context. It was closely associated with the Thirty Years‘ War. Multiple glazes lend the impression of the glimmer of ice, echoing the landscape paintings from the „Little Ice Age“ epoch in art history.