First Published: December 2004
Revised (substantive): 3 August 2012
An introductory note for the In Brief biography which follows: The following biography of Hollar was written by one of his contemporaries, John Aubrey (1626–1697). I take my text here from the two-volume edition of Aubrey’s Brief Lives by Andrew Clark (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1898), i. 407–8.
Another of Aubrey’s modern editors, Oliver Lawson Dick, gives the following introductory biography of Hollar: “Engraver. He lived in Frankfort, Cologne and Antwerp and had difficulty enough to subsist, until Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, brought him to England. Teacher of drawing to the Prince of Wales 1640. He fought in the ranks for the King, but was captured by Parliament and escaped to Antwerp. In 1652 he returned to England. He was appointed His Majesty’s Designer in 1660. Before the introduction of photography, picture painting and engraving were important professions, and Hollar charged fourpence an hour for his work, of which 2733 examples are enumerated. Besides making copies of famous paintings and illustrating books, Hollar executed a fine map of London after the Fire, illustrated the coronation of Charles II and engraved a series of pictures of women’s costumes, which have proved invaluable to historians.”
a She-philosopher.com In Brief biography
Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677)
Winceslaus Hollar, natus Pragae 23 Julii, st[ilo] v[etere], 1607, about 8 A.M.
“ Winceslaus Hollar, Bohemus, was borne at Prague.
“ His father was a Knight of the Empire: which is by lettres patent under the imperiall seale (as our baronets). I have seen it: the seale is bigger then the broad seale of England: in the middle is the imperiall coate; and round about it are the coates of the Princes Electors. His father was a Protestant, and either for keeping a conventicle, or being taken at one, forfeited his estate, and was ruined by the Roman Catholiques.
“ He told me that when he was a schoole-boy he tooke a delight in draweing of mapps; which draughts he kept, and they were pretty. He was designed by his father to have been a lawyer, and was putt to that profession, when his father’s troubles, together with the warres, forced him to leave his countrey. So that what he did for his delight and recreation only when a boy, proved to be his livelyhood when a man.
“ I thinke he stayd sometime in Lowe Germany, then he came into England, wher he was very kindly entertained by that great patron of painters and draughts-men [Thomas Howard] Lord High Marshall, earl of Arundell and Surrey, where he spent his time in draweing and copying rarities, which he did etch (i.e. eate with aqua fortis in copper plates). When the Lord Marshall went ambassador to the Emperor of Germany to Vienna, he travelld with much grandeur; and among others, Mr. Hollar went with him (very well clad) to take viewes, landskapes, buildings, etc. remarqueable in their journey, which wee see now at the print shopps.
“ He hath donne the most in that way that ever anyone did, insomuch that I have heard Mr. John Evelyn, R.S.S., say that at sixpence a print his labour would come to . . . . . li. (quaere J[ohn] E[velyn]). He was very short-sighted, and did worke 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 helpe his sight.
“ At Arundel-house he maried with my ladie’s wayting woman, Mrs. . . . Tracy, by whom he haz 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.
“ When the civil warres brake-out, the Lord Marshall had leave to goe beyond sea. Mr. Hollar went into the Lowe-Countries, where he stayed till about 1649.
“ I remember he told me that when he first came into England, (which was a serene time of peace) that the people, both poore and rich, did looke cheerfully, but at his returne, he found the countenances of the people all changed, melancholy, spightfull, as if bewitched.
“ I have sayd before that his father was ruined upon the account of the Protestant religion. Winceslaus dyed a Catholique, of which religion, I suppose, he might be ever since he came to Arundel-howse.
“ He was a very friendly good-natured man as could be, but shiftlesse as to the world, and dyed not rich. He maried a second wife, 1665, by whom he has severall children. He dyed on our Ladie-day (25 Martii), 1677, and is buried in St. Margaret’s church-yard at Westminster neer the north west corner of the tower. Had he lived till the 13th of July following, he had been just 70 yeares old.
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