Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Snowballs Go Way Back

by Anita Mae Draper

Snowball Fight, Anonymous (Flemish), circa 1510. Public Domain, courtesy of The Walters Art Museum, Wikimedia

A snowball can be classified as the simplest, most economical toy for all ages. It's free. It's usually fun. It's good exercise for muscles you didn't know you had, and when thrown at the wrong target, the
 evidence often disappears. The above image by an unknown Flemish artist is from the December page in a Book of Hours. Created on parchment using ink and paint, the complete illuminated page is a beautiful illustration of 1510 artwork, yet it's the snowball fight I want to explore. Are they only throwing snowballs at each other, or is the middle person aiming to try the man leading a donkey in the background?

One hundred years earlier, Venceslao Boemo, an Italian artist, created a fresco of a snowball fight at the base of the Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento, northern Italy. Unlike the first image, the participants in this painting appear to be of higher birth, based on their garments and yet they seem to be enjoying the sport just as much. 

Snowball Fight at Buonconsiglio Castle, Trento, Italy, c1400. Public Domain, Wikimedia

Cornelis Dusart (1660-1704) was a Dutch painter, draftsman, and printmaker. He was born and died in Haarlem, Netherlands, and used colored chalks and watercolor for his remarkable drawings of peasants. His work of a peasant pair throwing snowballs is thought to have been published on the March page of an Amsterdam calendar between 1680 and 1690.

Month of March, by Cornelis Dusant, c1680-1690. Public Domain, Wikimedia

Of course, the throwing of snowballs made great imagery for satirical drawings in newspapers and periodicals, such as this drawing published by Laurie & Whittle, London, England in 1794. The accompanying description reads, "Two well-dressed young women (left) stand behind a tree with snow-balls to pelt a thin and elderly man in old-fashioned dress (right) who walks in profile to the right, clenching his fist and holding up his stick. He is plastered with patches of snow. A third young woman kneels behind the others, making a snowball. Three others (right) are amused."

Snowballs, published 12th May 1794, by Laurie & Whittle, London. Creative commons, courtesy of the British Museum.

Snowball fights are a good way for a novelist to ramp up, or relieve tension between the hero and heroine. Do you know of any Regency or Victorian romance novels, novellas or short stories that use a well-thrown snowball to gain attention or have some fun? I know that Mary Balogh has included a snowball scene in her novel, Someone to Trust. Who knows another one?

Update: Thanks to Linda Shenton Matchett, another HHH blogger, for sharing that she has a snowball fight between the male and female protagonists in her WWII novellette, A Doctor in the House


Anita Mae Draper served a 20-year term working on air bases in the communication trade of the Canadian Armed Forces before retiring to the open skies of the prairies. She uses her experience and love of history to pepper her stories of yesteryear's romance with realism and faith. Anita Mae Draper's published stories appear in Barbour Publishing, WhiteFire Publishing, and Guideposts Books. Readers can enrich their story experience with visual references by checking out Anita's Pinterest boards. All links available on her website at www.anitamaedraper.com


  1. Great post! Who would have thought snowball fights would be the subject of art?!

    1. I know eh, Connie. I found some photos of snowball fights while researching my snowman series, but was intrigued when I stumbled upon the snowball images in the art world.

      Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. What a fun post! I love that six hundred years ago artists thought snowball fights were good subjects for art. And I never thought of the "gentry" getting involved. My novelette A Doctor in the House features a snowball fight between the male and female protagonists.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Linda. I've added your novelette, A Doctor in the House, to this post.

      I'm looking forward to your HHH post tomorrow. :)