Hollar, Wenceslaus (DNB00)

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HOLLAR, WENCESLAUS (1607–1677), in Bohemian Vaclav Holar, engraver, was born at Prague on 13 July 1607. He was the son of Jan Holar, a lawyer, who held an official appointment in that city, and Margaret, his wife, daughter of David Löw von Löwengrün and Bareyt, a burgher of the same place. He was the eldest of the family. There were two other sons. Hollar asserted that he belonged to the Bohemian nobility, his father having received a patent from the Emperor Rudolf in 1600, and having taken the style of Hollar of Prachna. The family is now extinct in Bohemia, and no clear traces of it are to be found after 1643, but a house still standing in the Neustadt, Prague, is said to have belonged to them. It has undergone considerable alterations. The elder Hollar died in 1630, and his wife predeceased him. Wenceslaus seems at first to have been intended by his father for the profession of the law, but his passion for art soon showed itself, and we are told that he was placed under the instruction of Matthew Merian, a celebrated engraver, then residing at Prague; it is noticeable that he seems at an early age to have been especially attracted by the works of Dürer.

There seem to be no grounds for Aubrey's story that the father of Hollar was a protestant and an adherent of Frederick, the ‘Winter King.’ Whatever may have been the motives of Wenceslaus for leaving Prague, he could not have done so from any persecutions which his family underwent, for his father continued throughout his life in the enjoyment of his emoluments, and remained in the confidence of the Emperor Ferdinand II till his death. Evelyn in his memoirs has a story that the engraver was a protestant, and became a Roman catholic during his second stay at Antwerp; but this account seems to be mere gossip.

Young Wenceslaus first went to Frankfort, where he resided two years, then to Cologne, and afterwards to Antwerp, where he spent some time, and according to Vertue had ‘difficulty enough to subsist.’ He continued drawing and engraving with more or less success. Thomas Howard, earl of Arundel, when ambassador to the German emperor, saw at Cologne in 1635 his engraving of the city of Prague. He was much pleased with it, and brought Hollar to England in his train. Hollar was now in fairly flourishing circumstances, and works by him appeared in rapid succession, among which may be mentioned views of Richmond and Greenwich. Soon after his arrival he married, according to Aubrey, who knew him well, ‘at Arundel house my ladie's wayting woman, Mrs. Tracy, by whom he had a daughter, that was one of the greatest beauties I have seen; his son by her dyed in the plague, an ingeniose youth; drew delicately.’ About 1639 or 1640 Hollar was appointed teacher of drawing to the prince, afterwards Charles II. A volume of sketches by the royal pupil, to which Hollar has given the finishing touches, may be seen among the Harleian MSS. at the British Museum.

In 1640 appeared one of the most interesting of his works, the ‘Ornatus Muliebris Anglicanus, or the Severall Habits of English Women from the Nobilitie to the Country Woman, as they are in these times.’ The following year he engraved the portraits of Charles I and his queen from the originals by Vandyck; but according to Vertue, who was able to gain much information from persons who had known Hollar, he was no favourite with the great painter, ‘because he could not so well enter into that master's true manner of drawing.’ In 1643 appeared his ‘Theatrum Mulierum sive Varietas atque Differentia Habituum Fœminei sexus.’ In this well-known work are figured the various styles of female dress in the leading nations of Europe.

On the outbreak of the civil war Arundel, his patron, was obliged to leave the country. Hollar remained in England, and entered the royalist ranks as a soldier in the regiment of the Marquis of Winchester. He was soon taken prisoner at Basing House by the parliamentary forces, but made his escape to Antwerp, where he found the Earl of Arundel settled with other royalist exiles. We find the entry ‘Wenceslaus Hollar, plaetsnyder,’ figuring in the book of the members of the Gild of St. Luke at Antwerp for 1645. The earl died at Padua in 1646. Hollar, reduced to great straits, was compelled to drudge at Antwerp at very low prices. In 1647 he engraved his own portrait. In 1652 he returned to England. He soon got employment, and illustrated among other works Ogilby's ‘Virgil,’ Dugdale's ‘St. Paul's,’ and Stapleton's ‘Juvenal.’ About 1654 he was employed in the house of Faithorne the engraver, and also by Stent and Overton the printsellers, who, according to Vertue, gave him very small pay, it seems about fourpence an hour ‘at his usual method by the hour-glass.’ Vertue tells us that he had it on the best authority that for the view of Greenwich, a large engraving in two plates, Hollar received from Stent only thirty shillings. The hour-glass by which the artist worked is constantly represented in his portraits.

On the accession of Charles II, Hollar was appointed ‘His Majestie's designer,’ and produced one of his chief works, the coronation of Charles II at Westminster. On 4 Sept. 1660 the king directed a letter to be sent to Sir Thomas Aleyn, lord mayor of London, informing him that Hollar had designed and cut in copper a large map of London and its suburbs, but that the work remained incomplete on account of the expenses incurred. The aldermen and other well-disposed citizens were therefore requested to assist Hollar in finishing the work (Remembrancia, p. 213; cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1666–7, p. 111). The corporation of London on this and other occasions rendered Hollar some assistance. The plague in 1665 and the fire in the following year threw him again out of employment. He made suggestions to Evelyn for the rebuilding of London, and executed a very fine map of the city, leaving the burnt portions blank (cf. Pepys, Diary, iii. 14). He was sworn the king's ‘scenographer’ on 21 Nov. 1666 (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1666–7, p. 256), and appealed to Charles II for pecuniary aid in the next year (ib. 1667, p. 430). In 1669 he was sent by the government in the suite of Lord Henry Howard to Tangier, where he remained for about a year. On his way back the ship in which he sailed, the Mary Rose, under the command of Captain Kempthorne, was almost captured by Algerine pirates. Of this adventure Hollar engraved a picture. For all his labours and perils he received only 100l. In 1672 he made a tour to the north of England, taking views on the way, which he afterwards engraved. He also illustrated Thoroton's ‘Antiquities of Nottinghamshire.’

He died on 28 March 1677, in the seventieth year of his age. We are told by Vertue that there was an execution in his house at the time, ‘of which when he was dying he was sensible enough to desire only to die in his bed, and not to be removed till he was buried.’ He was buried near the north-west corner of the tower of St. Margaret's Church, Westminster, but no stone marks the spot. He married a second time in 1665, and by this wife, who survived him many years, left several children. Of Hollar's personal character Aubrey says: ‘He was a very friendly, good-natured man as could be, but shiftless as to the world, and died not rich.’ Evelyn, who also knew him well, tells us that he was ‘a very honest, simple, well-meaning man.’

Of Hollar's prints 2,733 are enumerated in Parthey's account of his works (Berlin, 1853). They embrace a great variety of subjects, including scenes from the bible, historical pictures, maps, portraits of his chief contemporaries, views of cities, flower and fruit pieces, and various illustrations to books. His clever sketches of costume, his views of old London and other cities are invaluable to the historian. His engravings are executed with much spirit and carefully finished. They have steadily risen in value. An exhibition of them was held in London in 1875 at the Burlington Fine Arts Club.

The following are Hollar's more characteristic works: 1. Figures and portraits: ‘Ornatus Muliebris Anglicanus’ (1640), 26 plates; ‘Theatrum Mulierum’ (1643), 48 plates; portraits of Charles I and his queen after Vandyck (1649), James, duke of York, at the age of eighteen, Oliver Cromwell, Hobbes (1665) (cf. Notes and Queries, 1st ser. viii. 369), Oughtred, Lady Venetia Digby, and his own portrait. 2. Landscapes and buildings: A number of Dutch and German views, including Strassburg, Augsburg, and Stuttgart; Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham, Hull, and Greenwich; six views of Albury, the seat of Arundel; Dutch shipping (1665); tomb of Edward IV at Windsor; view of Richmond Park (1638); plates illustrating Dugdale's ‘St. Paul's;’ the choir of St. George's Chapel, Windsor; Antwerp Cathedral; Whitehall, Lambeth, and views of Windsor, and views in and about Tangier (1673). 3. Miscellaneous: ‘Charles and the army quartered at Newcastle on the way to Scotland in 1639;’ ‘Trial of Archbishop Laud’ (1645); ‘Trial and Execution of Thomas, Earl of Strafford;’ ‘Coronation of Charles II;’ ‘Kempthorne's Engagement with the Algerine Pirates;’ the ‘Four Seasons;’ map of England, surrounded by miniature portraits of kings; a map of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales; maps of the Isle of Man and Hungary; and ‘A New Mappe of the Cities of London, Westminster, and the Borough of Southwark’ (1675).

[Gustav Parthey's Wenzel Hollar (Berlin, 1853); Vertue's Catalogue and Description of the Works, &c., 1759; Bryan's Biographical and Critical Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, 1849; Aubrey's Lives, London, 1813; Evelyn's Diary; Journal of the Bohemian Museum (in Bohemian), Prague, 1854, 1855; Burlington Fine Arts Club, Exhibition of a Selection from the works of Wenceslaus Hollar, 1875.]

W. R. M.