The setting of the image is a winter landscape with a peasant in the foreground swinging an axe to chop wood whilst his wife gathers the pieces of wood into her apron. Inside the house behind them – one wall of which is missing to show the indoor scene – are two peasants sitting warming themselves by the fire in a stone hearth, an indication that they are comfortably off. Notice how the draught is situated away from the chimney, next to the edge of the house, possibly to balance the composition by avoiding leaving an excessively low, empty area between the church and the mill. The man raises his right hand, perhaps to shield himself from the strong heat and light, whilst the woman sitting on a carved chair with three short legs and a high back – an indication of certain wealth – breastfeeds a baby. Between them, on a table covered by a table cloth, are a jar and bowl of meat, and a grey cat underneath. Leaning out at the rear of the house is a female peasant next to an ox. In the background are several items: a windmill on a promontory with a peasant carrying his load towards it; a church with a person coming out of it and other people talking or simply strolling about wrapped up in capes or warm clothes to protect themselves from the cold. The landscape features several bare trees with snow-lined branches.
Depicted in cameo fashion in the bottom margin of the two folios are children or youths pulling sledges. Playing with sledges was depicted very early on, in the 15th century, along with skating. Bone sledges made of a horse’s jawbone were sometimes used – by the youngest children because of the size.
Carlos Miranda García-Tejedor
Doctor in History