The Wenceslaus Hollar Collection

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'Thy Shadows Will Outlast the Stone': Wenceslaus Hollar and the Art of the Book

Text of the Alexander Pathy Lecture given at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto, by Dr. Anne Thackray on November, 27, 2006. The lecture, for the Friends of the Library, was accompanied by books and prints from the Fisher's Hollar collection,Library, was accompanied by books and prints from the Fisher's Hollar collection, including some of those mentioned in the lecture.

Wenceslaus Hollar Wenceslaus Hollar was born Vaclav Hollar in the city of Prague, capital of Bohemia, in 1607. He etched his self-portrait in the 1640s for a book, Images de diverse hommes...issued by Johannes Meyssens, a leading Antwerp engraver and art publisher. From this one print comes most of the information we have about Hollar's early life.

First of all, it tells us that Hollar was a Bohemian: the background view is of Prague Cathedral, in the kingdom of Bohemia. Although Hollar subsequently lived in Germany, England, and the Spanish Netherlands, in keeping with the practice of many seventeenth-century émigrés he continued to consider himself a national of his birthplace, and identified himself as such when signing artworks.

Second, Hollar was a gentleman, from a gentleman's family. His father Jan was an officer at the court of the Habsburg Emperor, ruler of Bohemia. In this self-portrait print, Hollar depicts himself wearing a gentleman's clothes, with a costly lace-edged collar. He has included the family coat of arms, identifying him as a member of the European social elite, at upper left. His status as a gentleman was a practical advantage to Hollar, probably facilitating his career in England. It was easier for the printmaker to travel (and to do business with) his upper-class English employers than it would have been had he been a mere artisan.

Above all, the print declares Hollar a printmaker. He is accompanied by the tools of a printmaker (including a bottle of etching acid, 'acqua fortis'), and he holds up a print he has made. The print is a copy after a Raphael painting of St. Catherine (patron saint of artists). This particular painting was in the collection of the Earl of Arundel, Hollar's most important patron. As we shall see, Hollar's connection with the Earl affected all his life.

The French inscription on this print explains that Hollar, a 'Gentleman born at Prague' was by nature strongly attracted to the art of miniature-painting' ('...a esté de nature fort inclin pr. l'art de miniature principalement pour esclairir...)'. One can hardly imagine a better training for a future printmaker, as miniature-painting develops extremely precise powers of observation and fine motor control. It was also an art form popular with the European upper classes, particularly in court circles, so it is understandable that Hollar should have developed an early interest in it.

The text of the print explains that Hollar's father did not favour his son's ambition to become an artist, and indeed tried to thwart it. However, 'being greatly held back by his father' ('beaucoup retardé de son pere' [sic]), Hollar left Prague for Germany, and traveled with the Earl of Arundel from Cologne to Vienna, and then from Prague to England, where by the time this print was made he had become the 'serviteur domestique' of the Duke of York. The text further explains that Hollar had then left England because of the War (the Civil War), and settled in Antwerp, where he was living when this print was made in the 1640s.

The full text of the biographical inscription on the print reads:

'WENCESLAUS HOLLAR - Gentilhomme ne a Prage l'an 1607, a esté de nature fort inclin pr. L'art de miniature principalement pour esclaircir, mais beaucoup retardé par son pere l'an 1627 il est partij de Prage aijant demeuré en divers lieux en Allemaigne, il c'est addonne pour peu de temps a esclaircir et aplicquer leau forte, estant party de Coloigne avec le Compte d'Arondel vers Vienne et dillec par Prage vers l'Angleterre, ou aiyant ese serviteur domesticque du Duc de Iorck, it s'est retire de la a cause de la guerre a Anvers ou il reside encores.' 

[English translation of French text inscribed on print.]

'WENCESLAUS HOLLAR - Gentleman born at Prague in the year 1607, was by nature strongly inclined towards the art of the miniature, principally drawing but being greatly held back by his father, in the year 1627 he left Prague. Having lived in various places in Germany, he devoted himself for some time to drawing and applying etching acid. Having departed from Cologne with the Earl of Arundel, [he went] to Vienna and thence via Prague to England, where he was domestic servant to the Duke of York. Due to the war, he has retired from thence, to Antwerp, where he still lives.'

It is also clear from this print that Hollar had problems with his eyesight. Although he has chosen to depict himself from an angle minimizing this, one can still see that one eye (his left) looks directly towards us, while the other eye gazes slightly off to the side. We have an eye-witness account of Hollar at work. He held one hand over one of his eyes, effectively working with just one eye.

Thomas, Earl of ArundelIn 1627 the Habsburg rulers of Prague decreed that Protestant nobles must convert to Catholicism or leave. The nature of Hollar's true religious feelings has been debated, as later in life he appears to have been Catholic. However, at this period he may have had Protestant leanings, as in 1627 he emigrated. He travelled and worked in Germany. We can trace his whereabouts by the topographical views he preserved in his drawings and prints. In 1636 Hollar had the most important encounter of his professional life, probably at Cologne. He met the man he portrays in a print of 1639: Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel.

Arundel was traveling through war-ravaged Central Europe as an ambassador from King Charles I of England to the Habsburg Emperor. His mission was hopeless: to persuade the Emperor to restore territories lost by Charles's sister and brother-in-law. Their reign over Bohemia, so shortlived as to earn them the names of the 'Winter King' and 'Winter Queen', preceded the imperial crackdown on Bohemian Protestants which may have sent Hollar into exile.

By the time he met Arundel, Hollar was an expert draughtsman and printmaker, with his beautiful drawings, prints and maps of his German travels to prove it. In his 1639 print, he portrayed Arundel as a great military leader wearing armour. In fact, Arundel was a disastrous soldier, who failed to pacify the Scots for King Charles I. He is remembered to this day not as a diplomat or soldier, but as a remarkable art patron and collector, with a gift for recognizing talent. He was responsible for introducing Van Dyck to England. Encountering Hollar, Arundel realized that he could make a visual record of the embassy's travels along the Rhine and Danube to Vienna and Prague. The Earl promptly added the young draughtsman to his ambassadorial entourage, enabling Hollar to revisit his native city. The little group of travelers then returned to England, traveling via the Netherlands to London. Hollar's drawings of the embassy's journey still survive.

Arundel House, from the SouthIn London, the Earl and his wife Alathea Talbot lived at Arundel House. Now long gone, it stood on the banks of the Thames in the vicinity of Covent Garden, near (or at) what is now Somerset House. There the Earl brought together a groundbreaking collection of paintings, sculpture, natural history specimens, manuscripts, drawings, and ancient inscriptions. His collecting activities were financed through the enormous wealth of his wife, a daughter of the noted collector Lord Somerset.

Hollar lived at Arundel House as the Earl's private draughtsman-printmaker. This was a very unusual arrangement for England, although more common in great aristocratic houses on the continent. More than any of his fellow courtiers at the Caroline court, the Earl of Arundel - who had traveled in Italy and seen the great art collections of Italian aristocrats - understood how art patronage and collecting could enhance a courtier's status and renown. As the descendant of the dukes of Norfolk, a great English Catholic family disgraced through convictions for treason against the Tudor monarchs, Arundel was obsessed with his ancestors, and hoped to regain the dukedom for his family.

From Hollar's work at Arundel House, it appears that Arundel wanted to spread knowledge of his magnificent collections through prints and illustrated books - both for the sake of scholarship and to publicize his own cultivation and wealth. Hollar's prints of Arundel House itself and of the city of London preserve the appearance of the city before the Great Fire of London irrevocably altered it. This view of one of the courtyards of Arundel House shows how Arundel House was an accumulation of buildings of various sizes and vintages. Like most of old, pre-Fire London, it was built of timber rather than brick, a higgledy-piggledy assemblage. It was also a community made up of the family, its servants and employees. One of the Arundels's coaches is visible at right. Members of the household dot the courtyard. The print is small, but Hollar's precision makes it possible to identify their varying social status from their clothing.

The tall window in the roof at right may have belonged to Hollar's studio, for such windows were typical of artist's studios. The rectangles leaning on the wall outside may possibly be copperplates, ready to be cut up into smaller printing plates.
 

Seleucus and his son, after Giulio RomanoOne of the first etchings Hollar made in London for Arundel is this magnificent, unusually-shaped print reproducing a drawing of the Italian artist Giulio Romano's fresco in the Palazzo del Té at Mantua, Italy. (Hollar is not known to have visited Italy. He must have relied on a drawing of the fresco - probably a drawing now in the British Museum. The drawing is not by Giulio himself, but by another hand). The recording and dissemination of designs throughout Europe via drawings was a long-established practice, but the development of printmaking, particularly etching, now made it possible to spread knowledge more widely than ever before. Hollar was part of this ever-expanding transfer of information. It is thought that this particular print may have been intended as the first of a series of prints reproducing some of the Earl's collection of classical antiquities - perhaps a volume of the ancient inscriptions. The print's large size, splendour, and the Latin inscription, identify it as an artwork for a cultivated, well-educated and wealthy audience. Hollar even made some impressions of this print in coloured inks. There is a red version in the British Museum, and a blue version in Prague.

The print's subject-matter and its inscription underlines how art patronage and art-collecting were closely related to the Earl's preoccupation with rank and power. It depicts Seleucis (358-280 B.C.), one of Alexander the Great's generals and a ruler in Asia Minor. When Seleucis's son was condemned for adultery, the law decreed that he lose two eyes. His father had the power to repeal the sentence, but refrained. Instead, he ordered that one of his own eyes be put out, and one of his son's eyes - sacrificing his own eye to save his son's sight. In the seventeenth century, the story of Seleucis was invoked to represent the virtuous exercise of authority. Arundel, as Earl Marshal of England, held a senior position at Charles I's court. He was probably familiar with the story of Seleucis - the subject of a Latin poem by his sons's tutor Henry Peacham.

In the print's Latin inscription, Hollar 'humbly dedicates' his print to 'the most illustrious and excellent' Lord Arundel - who probably underwrote the cost of producing the print. The inscription lists Arundel's titles, his court appointment as Earl Marshal, and his membership of the royal Order of the Garter, and praises him as the greatest admirer, collector, and patron of the arts. Hollar's own pride in his role as printmaker is evident from the placement of his signature - on the stone step below Seleucis's foot. Hollar has written his own name in this prominent position at the centre of the image, right under Giulio Romano's name.

WinterWhile serving Arundel, Hollar was also allowed to supplement his income by working for the commercial print market in London. Though the city's printing and publishing was still underdeveloped in comparison with the great European printing capitals of Paris and Antwerp, it was expanding in the first half of the seventeenth century. Whereas the Tudor and Jacobean print market had been dominated by the production of maps and portrait prints, under Charles I English publishers were diversifying their stocks of prints to include new subjects.

Some of the most popular subjects were sets of allegories represented by women wearing fashionable dress - sometimes accompanied by bawdy verses. Over 80 of these sets have been identified. Though most of them have been lost, their existence is revealed by entries in publishers's stock inventories and catalogue lists.

Between 1641 and 1646, Hollar published three sets of 'The Four Seasons'. Each season was represented by a beautiful woman wearing appropriate clothing. Here, a full-length image of Winter wears a mask - to preserve her complexion against the cold winds - and furs. Hollar was exceptionally good at depicting the texture of furs. His still-life images of muffs are among his most famous prints, and are still highly sought-after by print collectors today.

Group of fur muffs on tableIn this celebrated etching from 1647, Hollar depicts a pile of muffs, lace-edged handkerchiefs, gloves, a folded fan, and a mask like that worn by the woman in Winter. As well as being a tour-de-force of rendering texture by black-and-white line, this print is the first time that these expensive items of clothing associated with upper-class European women had been combined in a still-life. Muffs reappear in Hollar's work, but only one drawing of a muff by Hollar survives. Hollar's interest in depicting fur goes beyond that of most artists, suggesting that he had a fetishistic, erotic fascination with the material.

The verses inscribed on the Winter print (by a professional calligrapher) may be a double-entendre:

'The cold, not cruelty makes her wear
In Winter, furres and Wild beasts haire
For a smoother skinn at night
Embraceth her with more delight.'

In the print's background Hollar has included a view of Cornhill, London - a centre of London's printing trade, but also the site of a notorious prison for prostitutes.

Execution of StraffordWhatever plans the Earl of Arundel may have had to publish his collection through prints and book illustrations by Hollar never came to fruition. They were frustrated by the collapse of Charles I's authority, the rise of unrest in London, and the approach of civil war. The Earl and Countess, as royalist courtiers, knew they were increasingly in danger - as was Hollar. According to the French inscription on his 1640s self-portrait, he had become a 'domestic servant' to the Duke of York. This probably means that he taught drawing to the young royal princes, specifically to the younger son of Charles I: Prince James, Duke of York - the future King James II.

In the etching of the execution of the Earl of Strafford, one of his most famous prints, Hollar commemorates a contemporary event: the execution of the King's chief minister, the Earl of Strafford, at Tower Hill on May 12, 1641. Typically, Hollar - who had doubtless seen enough suffering during his time in war-ravaged Germany - avoids close-ups of the gory details. The scaffold is at the centre of the picture, but Hollar's viewpoint is from so far away that he uses letters and a key to identify Strafford and his executioners. Whether by preference or necessity, the artist's viewpoint is from the back of the immense crowd. The result is a 'you-were-there' illusion, one made more lifelike by the inclusion of telling details like the struggle for a foothold on the viewing stand at left. At right are the upright pikes of the guard.

As civil war threatened London, the Earl and Countess went into exile. They sent the more portable part of their collections ahead of them, but were obliged to leave behind the magnificent collection of antique sculptures, which moldered in the gardens of Arundel House. Eventually the surviving remnants found a home at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. With the departure of the Earl and Countess, the cosy, productive household of scholars and artists at Arundel House was scattered.

For a while, Hollar tried to manage by himself in England, no doubt relying on his existing connections in the London print trade. He worked for Parliamentarians as well as royalists, etching whatever sold, including propaganda images and maps. His best-known map from this period is his 'quartermaster's map' of England, marketed as 'useful for all Commanders for Quarteringe of Soldiers and all sorts of Persons, that would be informed, Where the Armies be...' (1644).

However, Hollar must have known that he was increasingly at risk, as the likelihood of a Parliamentarian victory grew ever stronger. It is understandable that someone who had witnessed the results of war in Bohemia and in the villages along the Rhine, where in 1636 Arundel's embassy had encountered starving people, would not linger anywhere armed conflict threatened. In 1644, perhaps spurred by the heavy defeat of Royalist forces at the battle of Marston Moor, Hollar left London for Antwerp, settling there with his wife and children. (He had married Margaret Tracy, one of Lady Arundel's ladies-in-waiting).

Hollar probably chose Antwerp because it was a major printmaking centre - and because the Earl of Arundel had moved there. Hollar may well have had printing connections in the city already. From Antwerp, Hollar supplied publishers in Antwerp, Amsterdam and London with prints etched from drawings he had made in London or in Antwerp itself.

The beautiful gradations of light, the fine detail and magnificent perspectival drawing in the large view of Antwerp Cathedral (1649), which Hollar etched while living in the city, are typical of his finest prints. He anticipated that the buyers for the Antwerp print, in re-Catholicized Antwerp, would most likely be Catholics. In the print, a Catholic religious procession is visible in front of the cathedral. Hollar may well have converted to Catholicism himself during this period. Certainly his contemporaries believed that the Jesuits of Antwerp had converted him. He joined the local artists's professional association, the Guild of St. Luke: a prerequisite for working as an official member of the Antwerp art community. Often at this period membership in such guilds in Catholic areas of Europe was restricted to practicing Catholics.

P2164In the seventeenth century, highly decorative, natural history prints were very popular in Holland - and in England, where continental sets (e.g. Crispijn I de Passe's Hortus Floridus (Utrecht, 1615)) sold well. Such prints had an additional function as embroidery designs: seventeenth-century English embroideries abound in beautifully-stitched butterflies, moths and bugs. Publishers liked the sets because they could be reissued for years.

This titlepage - from a set of a dozen natural history etchings issued by Hollar at Antwerp in 1646 - explains that in making these prints he relied on coloured drawings (by an unknown artist) belonging to the Earl of Arundel. During the 1640s Hollar often turned for printmaking designs to drawings he had made earlier as Arundel's domestic draughtsman.

Four Caterpillars and a Snail is a print from the set, with an inscription identifying it as having been made by Hollar from the collection of the Earl of Arundel. These caterpillars brought out Hollar's interest and skill in depicting furry textures. He had to use drawings rather than actual specimens in making this print, as snails and caterpillars (unlike butterflies) could not be easily preserved. A volume of Hollar's drawings of 'Birds, Beasts, Fishes and InsectsFour caterpillars and a snail inimitably performed', made on Arundel's orders, was sold at the auction of the collector John Townely in the nineteenth century.

Hollar was still far from London when he engraved his best-known print in 1647: a panorama of London based on his drawings from the tower of Southwark Cathedral, supplemented with a panorama executed by Jansz. Visscher in 1616. The panorama is composed of six panels, each made with an individual plate producing a print measuring 46.2 by 39.2 centimetres. One panel contains the two ends of the panorama. Once all the panels are assembled, these two ends constitute the front 'page' of the panorama, with allegorical figures and an inscription. Though many of Hollar's Antwerp prints bear English inscriptions, indicating that they were made for the London market, this has a Latin inscription. The inscription declares the panorama was published in Amsterdam by Cornelis Danckers, and that it is dedicated to Mary, Princess of Orange. A daughter of Charles I, Princess Mary had married William of Orange. The inscription further describes London as 'the seat of royalty', identifying it with the Royalist cause. In 1647 Charles I had escaped from captivity, reviving Royalist hopes. His Queen, Henrietta Maria, hoped (in vain) that the Prince of Orange would send a Dutch army to help Charles. Though costly, the panorama was so popular that Hollar updated it for a second edition published in 1661.

The viewpoint for this panel is the tower of Southwark Cathedral (St. Mary Overy, as it was then called) on the South Bank of the Thames. Hollar's precise point of view is probably in midair, a few feet above the top of the tower. In other words, he used his training in perspective and his exceptionally fine spatial reasoning to imagine how the city would appear from that spot. An airborne figure representing Fame blows her trumpet above the houses of old London Bridge. Pre-Fire London is essentially still a Tudor city, with close-packed timbered buildings and narrow lanes.

Hollar's London views, our best visual evidence of London as it appeared before the Great Fire of 1666, provide an image of 'Shakespeare's London'. As such, they attracted the interest of the collector Sidney Thomson Fisher, sparking his fascination with Hollar. Although as yet no example of Hollar's great panorama is in the collection of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, it led to the formation of Sidney Fisher's wonderful collection of Hollar's work. The Fisher now holds the largest collection of Hollar material in the world.

Allegory on the death of the Earl of ArundelIn 1646 the death of Lord Arundel in Padua ended whatever hope Hollar may have had that he might one day regain his protected position in Arundel's household. He etched this memorial print after a design by Cornelis Schut (1597-1655). Hollar's friend, the artist Hendrick van der Borcht (like Hollar formerly in Arundel's service) published the print. The design suggests that Schut had read Arundel's directions for his monument, given in the will he made in 1642 before leaving London:

'...That my Tombe be my own Figure (of white marble or brass designed by Signr Francesco Fanelli) sitting and looking upwards (according to the last clause of the Epitaph) leaning upon a Lion holding an Escutcheon upon which the Epitaph is to be engraven, and at the feet the marshall's Staff with a Cornet or the like'.[1]

As the Earl died in exile, the monument was never erected. The print's Latin inscription again announces Arundel's high rank and honours his patronage of the arts, predicting (accurately) that this would preserve his name. As the Earl had specified, he is shown seated and looking upwards, leaning on a lion holding an escutcheon. Sculpture and Painting (in the foreground) lament his death, while the skeletal figure of Death and winged Time are engaged in a tug-of-war over the Earl with a pair of putti pulling in the other direction. The putti are associated with Fame, who blows her trumpet from a heavenly chariot drawn by winged horses. Hollar enhanced Schut's design by adding treasures from Arundel's collections to the foreground: a Holbein portrait of the Earl's ancestor, the Duke of Norfolk, and a Holbein drawing of Solomon and Sheba. (The Earl was known for his collection of Holbeins). Classical busts at right and a print of Raphael's Assumption of the Virgin, a litter of books, drawings and old coins or seals, and a small statuette of a horse, represent other areas of the Earl's collecting interests.

In 1652, Hollar returned to London. Why did he go back? The immediate enticement may have been new legislation: the Act of Pardon and Oblivion, which removed the danger Hollar might be prosecuted as a royalist.

The 1650s were a key decade in the history of British print publishing. In 1654, the leading print publisher, Peter Stent, issued the first English catalogue of prints for sale. Booksellers outside London could now order prints and illustrated books from the capital to resell locally. As literacy spread, new developments in science, technology, archaeology and antiquarianism, biology and botany, and international travel created a demand for prints and book illustrations to communicate knowledge to a widening public. New publications provided translations of classical literature for an English-speaking readership. There was a symbiotic relationship between the expansion of print publishing and the expansion of intellectual life in Restoration Britain.

From the 1650s, Hollar was caught up in these developments. He contributed printed illustrations to some of the most innovative publications of the era, and applied his mapmaking skills and astonishingly daring perspective drawings to the geographical publishing trade. He worked mostly for others rather than on his own account: for authors and book publishers.

Hollar's former connection with the Earl of Arundel remained of key importance. He even returned (briefly) to working for the Arundel family: for one of the Earl's grandsons. Most of his work, though, was for men associated with the College of Arms, formerly headed by the Earl as Earl Marshal. Starting in the 1650s, Hollar's main income came from his book illustration work for William (later Sir William) Dugdale, and for the enterprising author/publisher, John Ogilby. Possibly Hollar met Dugdale (a royal herald since 1638) through Francis Junius, former librarian to the Earl of Arundel.

St Paul's. The choirHollar etched this illustration plate for Dugdale's History of St. Paul's Cathedral. (London, 1658). It depicts the choir of Old St. Paul's, the huge Norman cathedral at the heart of the City of London. Already dilapidated before the Civil Wars, the building had deteriorated further from neglect during the Interregnum, when Parliamentarian soldiers had stabled their horses in the nave. For Dugdale, Old St. Paul's symbolized the English monarchy and the Church of England, both threatened - as was the cathedral itself - by radical Protestantism and impiety. He wrote his book, and Hollar illustrated it, as a conscious act of commemoration. On another of Hollar's plates (a view of the nave) Hollar explains that the prints were made to preserve the cathedral's memory as 'a sacred Monument of the Christian Religion': 'May mother Church be revived, and may the Impious perish'. Hollar records that he had long admired St. Paul's, and that while he was drawing it, he daily expected the collapse of the building. His plates remain our best visual evidence of the old cathedral, ruined in the Great Fire of 1666.

The extraordinary changes experienced by many Restoration people during their lifetimes - the execution of a king and the apparent end of monarchical government, the Civil War, the Plague, the Great Fire - included the disappearance of Old St. Paul's, a vast building with stone walls five feet thick and, in places, 200 feet high. We tend to think of Hollar's illustrations as innovative, but for his contemporaries they often had a preservative or commemorative function. As John Aubrey remarked in his 'Advice to the Painter or Graver', in his The Natural History of Wiltshire (ed. John Britton, 1847), p. 126, illustrations offered a rare stability in a constantly-changing world. They...

'...would remain to posterity, when their families are gone, and their buildings ruined by time, or fire, as we have seen that stupendous fabric of Paul's Church, not a stone left on a stone, and lives now only in Mr. Hollar's etchings in Sir William Dugdale's History of Paul's.'

Hollar etched illustrations depicting the 1661 coronation of Charles II for John Ogilby's The Entertainment of His Most Excellent Majestie Charles II in his passage through the city of London to his Coronation..., (London, 1662). The new King had ordered it should be as magnificent as possible, and the diarist Samuel Pepys testified that the glittering clothes and jewels of the courtiers tired his eyes. Ogilby brought out his book in 1662, taking advantage of the groundswell of popular support for Charles II at the start of his Restoration. As well as executing several fold-out plates reproducing the long procession to Westminster Abbey, Hollar produced a double-spread view of the Abbey interior during the coronation ceremony.

The 1665 plague badly affected Hollar, who lost his son (described by John Aubrey as 'an ingeniose youth, drew delicately') and much of his business. During the epidemic, those who could afford to do so left the city - including many of the people who normally bought books and prints. People obliged to remain in London avoided all but the most necessary shopping.

The printmaker Francis Place (1647-1728), who knew Hollar well, told Hollar's biographer George Vertue that Hollar 'suffered extremely for want of business, which old Peter Plent [Stent] made an advantage of, purchasing several of his plates for a trifle. He [Peter Stent] told me he gave him but 30 shill[ings] for the long view of Greenwich which very well deserved 10 or 15 pounds' (quoted in Antony Griffiths, Wenceslaus Hollar: prints and drawings from the collections of the National Gallery, Prague, and the British Museum, London (London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1983).

The panoramic view of Greenwich Park is the print in question, the first major print completed by Hollar on arrival in the 1630s. In the 1660s, the original inscription on the print, dedicating it to Queen Henrietta Maria, whose Queen's House appears in the middle distance, was erased. The plate was reprinted with a new inscription, including Peter Stent's address. Stent himself died in the Plague.

Hollar did try to finance and produce a print on his own account - on a truly ambitious scale. In 1660, he sought sponsors to finance a huge aerial map of London and Westminster depicting every building in the city. The map was to be ten feet wide, and five feet high. Hollar completed one section (a single impression of a bird's-eye view of west-central London, now in the British Museum) probably as a sample to show to potential subscribers.

In 1666 the Great Fire of London erased the market for a map based on Hollar's painstaking drawings of the pre-Fire city. Charles II did urge Hollar to continue with the map, but despite repeated petitions Hollar only received 50 pounds from the King - not enough to complete it.

He recouped something through his unrivalled knowledge of pre-Fire London. Charles II appointed him to survey London's ruins, to make a map of the extent of the destruction, and he issued 'before and after' prints depicting the Fire, as Samuel Pepys recorded in his Diary (Nov. 22, 1666):

' My Lord Brouncker did show me Hollar's new print of the City, with a pretty representation of that part which is burnt, very fine indeed; and tells me that he was yesterday sworn the King's servant, and that the King hath commanded him to go on with his great map of the City, which he was upon before the City burned, like Gombout of Paris, which I am glad of.'

London before and after the fireHollar made prints depicting London before, during and after the Fire. These views of London 'before and after' the Fire are accompanied by a key identifying 58 destroyed buildings. One of the problems facing firefighters in the Great Fire was that the waterwheel at the north end of the Bridge, which supplied water to parts of the City away from the waterside, burned early in the Fire. In the old City, fire raced through the closely-packed wooden houses lining the narrow lanes - some only wide enough to roll a cask of wine through. John Evelyn's description of the Fire, seen from the South Bank of the Thames - from Southwark, the viewpoint of these prints - suggests there was a firestorm, in which the very air seemed to burn, and the fire jumped great distances. The noise was incredible, and the sky was lit up as bright as day for 40 miles around London. The fire burned from the Tower as far as Inigo Jones's Banqueting House in Whitehall. Though both buildings were saved, St. Paul's was irrevocably damaged. Fire spread up the scaffolding to the roof timbers, and the roof collapsed into the crypt.London before and after the fire

Some of Hollar's own plates for book illustrations for Dugdale and Ogilby seem to have been destroyed in the flames of St. Paul's. They would have been among the stocks stored for safety in the crypt during the Fire by the booksellers and print publishers whose shops surrounded Old St. Paul's.

Hollar's portrait etching of Sir William Dugdale (1605-1686) was made as the frontispiece for Dugdale's pioneering work of local history, The Antiquities of Warwickshire (London, 1656), an impressive work which inspired similar publications from other authors.

Dugdale appears here as the gentleman scholar, identifiable as such by his coat of arms, heraldic crest, his furlined coat - and the fact he keeps his hat on indoors. Sir William looks at us, with pen and ink handy, and without losing his place in the ancient document he is reading. The inscription below tells us that Dugdale is 50 years old. A litter of ancient deeds and charters - some dangling their wax seals - fills the shelf. Some may have been from the Earl of Arundel's collection, for Arundel's descendants let Dugdale consult the Earl's old manuscripts.

Prominently placed in the portrait are William Dugdalethe two publications for which Dugdale commissioned illustrations from Hollar: the Monasticon Anglicanum (published between 1655 and 1673) on the table, and the The Antiquities of Warwickshire leaning nearby. Dugdale's correspondence is a major source of information for Hollar's post-1652 life. The artist traveled England making drawings of cathedrals and monastic foundations, tombs and stained-glass windows for Dugdale's books.

The fate of the Monasticon Anglicanum - to this day an important source for scholars of medieval Britain - demonstrates the perils of Restoration publishing. Without strong copyright laws to protect published prints and books, pirating was rife. Printmakers who illustrated books did not receive royalties, but a one-off payment. Once published, a print could be quickly copied and prices undercut.

For the Monasticon Dugdale commissioned plates from a number of engravers, including Daniel King, a shadowy figure who reissued the Monasticon's plates as a separate publication: The Cathedral and Conventuall Churches of England and Wales (London, 1656). Different versions of this publication survive, with various titlepages and ordering of the plates. Hollar added coats of arms and English texts to some of King's plates. Dugdale's reaction may be imagined. Later he called King 'a most ignorant silly fellow' and 'an arrant knave', taking steps to prevent King from bringing out a translation of any of the text from the Latin edition of Monasticon Anglicanum. Eventually the publisher John Overton (Peter Stent's successor) must have acquired the Monasticon plates, as he advertised them in his catalogue in 1682. He lent or rented them back to be printed up for later reprints of the Monasticon.

Salisbury CathedralIndividual printed illustrations - especially large plates - were costly to produce, and one of the unusual practices of British book illustration at this period was the sponsoring of individual plates by subscribers. They paid an extra five pounds or so on top of the usual subscription fees. In return, the plate included a dedicatory inscription and the subscriber's coat of arms. These can be seen on this print of Salisbury Cathedral, one of Hollar's architectural plates for the Monasticon 's third volume (1673). The five pounds Dugdale paid Hollar for the plate came from Sir James Herbert, whose name and coat of arms appear.

Hollar etched the aerial view of Persepolis in 1663 for a new edition of Sir Thomas Herbert's The Persian Monarch (1634), retitled Some Years' Travels into...Africa and Asia (London, 1665). As a young man, Sir Thomas had visited Persepolis (in modern Iran) with an English embassy, and when he needed an illustrator he would have known where to turn. Sir William Dugdale had asked him for information about Yorkshire monastic foundations, Persepolisso Herbert understandably commissioned this plate from Hollar. Hollar himself never saw Persepolis, relying instead on Herbert's written descriptions, and possibly on any sketches he might have brought back to England. This was typical of most seventeenth-century European publications about overseas countries.

Hollar's principal employer other than Dugdale was the enterprising publisher-author John Ogilby (1600-1676), publisher of the volume on Charles II's coronation. The King had granted Ogilby a privilege for that book, protecting text and illustrations from being pirated for 15 years. He issued privileges for some of Ogilby's subsequent publications as well.

The swan and the storkOriginally trained as a dancing-master, Ogilby took advantage of the social contacts gained through teaching the children of aristocrats. He landed a post as Master of the Revels in Ireland, but the Irish Rebellion drove him back to London, where he took up publishing. Ogilby had astutely realized that what was happening in France - the development of an expanded reading public with a taste for vernacular-language translations of Greek and Roman classical literature - was also underway in Britain. The now middle-aged Ogilby taught himself Greek and Latin and published his own English-language transations of the classics. He began with small-format books and moved on to luxury publications: illustrated folio volumes for rich English readers. His 1654 edition of Virgil, beautifully illustrated, set a new standard in British book publishing.

Ogilby's multiple editions of Aesop's Fables inspired him to write his own fables with political or religious topicality, published as the Aesopics, (London, 1668). Hollar illustrated many of these. His plate of 'The Swan and the Stork' satirizes former Parliamentarians who turned Royalist at the Restoration and reaped the benefits. Hollar's impoverished Swan, still in Cavalier garb and hairdo, reprimands the ex-Parliamentarian Stork, now a fashionably-dressed courtier wearing long curls and carrying a muff. Ogilby's verses describe how the Stork now parades London's Strand, calling out, 'I am the King's Canary-Bird !'. Reprimanded by the Swan, the Stork explains he is now a 'weathercock', whose principles (and political loyalties) change with the wind in accordance with whatever will enrich him and his family. That is the way to preferment at court. The motto: though Kings are never unjust, their Favourites often are. (In other words, be wary of successful Restoration courtiers).

The Great Fire interrupted production of the Aesopics. Ogilby lost 3,000 pounds worth of stock in the Fire, and the remaining illustrations for the book were designed by Francis Barlow and etched in 1668 by Gaywood. Meanwhile, Ogilby raised capital by holding a lottery for his remaining stock, and reinvented himself yet again - as a geographical publisher of a world atlas (the English Atlas, in 5 volumes), and a road atlas of Britain: Britannia.

Windsor CastleYet another College of Arms herald, Elias Ashmole, Windsor Herald from 1660 to 1675, commissioned commemorative book illustrations from Hollar. Ashmole, an ardent Royalist, wrote his Institution, Laws and Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter (1672) during the Interrregnum, to preserve from oblivion the traditions of the Order of the Garter, Europe's oldest chivalric order. Charles I had revived the Order and promoted it heavily, to encourage support for the principles by which he ruled. Fortunately for Ashmole, at the Restoration Charles II was eager to re-establish the Order, so the book came to press with the full support of the new king. Hollar made his plates for the book over many years, visiting Windsor with Ashmole in 1659, and engraving the Grand Procession of the Soveraigne and knights Companions... in 1672. At least one of the plates, a fireworks scene at Stockholm, is not signed by Hollar, who would have been traveling to Tangier in August, 1669, when this celebration took place.

It was Hollar, though, who drew the aerial view of Windsor Castle to scale. It is an engraving - then considered a more painstaking printmaking technique than etching. The astonishing perspective raises the question of optical aids. Did Hollar use them, to help him in his drawing? According to John Aubrey, author of a short biography of Hollar in his Brief Lives, Hollar did use a magnifying glass:

' He was very short sighted...and did work so curiously, that the curiosity of his Worke is not to be judged without a magnifying-glasse. When he tooke his Landskaps, he, then, had a glasse to help his sight.'

(However, the printmaker Francis Place, who knew Hollar in Hollar's old age, wrote that 'he never used spectacles'). No magnifying glass could substitute for Hollar's exceptional spatial reasoning (his ability to mentally rotate shapes and forms, accurately depicting them from unusual angles. The artist's earlier maps of continental cities (e.g. Cologne) demonstrate how well he learned to create aerial views. In his plate of Windsor, Hollar was painstaking in his depiction of the castle itself, but did not trouble to represent the trees below the castle in accurate perspective. They are merely schematically depicted as fill-in, and are shown in a right-angled perspective, conflicting with the perspective used for the castle architecture.

Tangier. Series title.Hollar associated himself for one last time with the Arundel family in March 1669, petitioning Charles II for permission to travel as 'Royal Scenographer' with an expedition to Tangier led by the Earl of Arundel's grandson, Henry Howard. At 62, Hollar was re-creating the circumstances under which he had worked for the Earl of Arundel: as visual chronicler of a foreign journey. Was Hollar hoping for another patronage position at Arundel House to shelter him in old age? If so, none was forthcoming.

Hollar's petition to Charles II referred to his 1630s relationship with Howard's grandfather, the Earl of Arundel. He explained that he had served the Earl 'in the like employment'. The trip would allow him to compare Tangier with an aerial map he had made of the town in 1664, relying on the customary practice of following the author's text:

'There is a large map thereof done by me - but performed only upon the author's tradition by word of mouth, and my own bringing into method...I should find but little likeness, and perhaps quite another thing. I would examine all, and take designs, and give His Majesty much better satisfaction...'

Tangier, on the northwest coast of Morocco across the Straits from Gibraltar, had come to the British Crown in 1662 as part of the dowry of Charles II's bride, the Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza. Samuel Pepys's diaries are full of references to the meetings of the 'Tangier Committee' under the king's brother, the Duke of York. The British spent years discussing what to do with Tangier, but never committed the necessary funds and manpower to make it a naval stronghold. They named the town's streets after London ones, but finally abandoned the city in 1684.

On his 1669 visit Hollar made at least 30 drawings of Tangier, as well as watercolours (now in the British Museum). He used these for a set of etched prints, published by John Overton as Divers Prospects in and about Tangier, Exactly Delineated by W. Hollar, His Majesty's Designer, Ao 1669, and by Him Afterwards to Satisfy the Curious, Etched in Copper (1673).

In December Hollar returned to England on the ship Mary Rose. The ship was attacked by pirates, and Hollar drew the scene, later etching a print of the attack to illustrate Ogilby's English Atlas (the 1670 volume).

Jan Nieuhoff. An embassy from the East-India Company to the Emperour of ChinaHollar also contributed a print of 'The supreme monarch of the China-Tartarian Empire' as frontispiece for another Ogilby production: an English-language version of a Latin translation of the first illustrated European book about China. This was Johan Nieuhof's Het gezantshcap...aan den grooten tartarischen Cham (Amsterdam, 1665), an account of Nieuhof's travels with the Dutch East India Company's 1655-56 embassy to the Middle Kingdom of China. Ogilby's English version, An Embassy from the East-India Company...to the Grand Tartar Cham, Emperor of China came out in 1669 with a second edition 1673. Many of its 150 illustrations were based on Nieuhof's own sketches which were rediscovered in 1985.

In old age, Hollar could no longer travel widely, so relied on his stock of sketches and on other artists's drawings for book illustrations. His friend Francis Place records that Hollar was now working for a shilling an hour:

'He did all by the hour in which he was very exact for if any body came in that kep him from his business he always laid ye hour glass on one side, till they were gone. he always recond 12 d an hour'.

Hollar's last works are thought to be his illustrations for two more antiquarian publications. One was Robert Thoroton's The Antiquities of Nottinghamshire. The other, a Genealogical History (1677) was written by Francis Sandford, yet another member of the College of Arms. Sandford, as Lancaster Herald, knew Hollar well. They had worked together, surveying London for Charles II after the Great Fire.

John Aubrey wrote that when Hollar died on March 25, 1677, aged 69, the bailiffs were already in his house, collecting his possessions to pay his debts. ('Shiftless as to the world, he died not rich.' explained Aubrey). According to Francis Place, 'he was heard to say they might have stayed till he was dead.' Gillian Tindall, author of a recent biographical reconstruction of Hollar's life (The Man Who Drew London: Wenceslaus Hollar in reality and imagination(London, 2002), has pointed out that an inventory of Hollar's house made two months later proves it was then still furnished. Hollar had duly paid his parish rates, assessed at over twice that of his neighbours's properties. He died intestate, but she considers it unlikely that he died poor. His widow Honora (his second wife) sold much of his remaining work to Sir Hans Sloane, whose collection of Hollars ended up in the British Museum.

John Aubrey wrote that Hollar died a Catholic, and had been Catholic ever since he worked for the Earl of Arundel at Arundel House. Hollar certainly seems to have been Catholic in the 1650s, when he was arrested and appeared at Quarter Sessions Court in Clerkenwell for attending mass at the Venetian ambassador's Catholic chapel. If Hollar was still Catholic at his death, he was discreet enough not to be publicly so, and was buried in the Anglican churchyard of St. Margaret's, Westminster. On the 300th anniversary of Hollar's death, Czech exiles living in London erected a monument to his memory in Southwark Cathedral. Hollar had repeatedly drawn London from the tower of that church. The memorial is inscribed, 'Wenceslaus Hollar. Exile from Bohemia - Artist in England. Under a sculpture of Hollar's face by the Czech artist F. Belsky are lines from a poem addressed to Hollar by his biographer George Vertue:

'The works of Nature and of Man,
By thee perceived, take Life again;
And ev'n thy PRAGUE serenely shines,
Secure from ravage in thy Lines.
In just Return this Marble Frame
Would add some Ages to thy Name:
Too frail, alas ! 'tis forced to own,
Thy SHADOWS will outlast the STONE.'

 

ENDNOTES

[1] Howarth, David. Lord Arundel and his Circle. (New Haven and London, 1985), pp.209-10.