Hollar, Wentzel

, a most admired engraver, was born at Prague in Bohemia, in 1607. He was at first instructed in schoollearning, and afterwards put to the profession of the law; but not relishing that pursuit, and his family being ruined when Prague was taken and plundered in 1619, so that they could not provide for him as had been proposed, he removed from thence in 1627. During his abode in several towns in Germany, he applied hiinselFto drawing and designing, to copying the pictures of several great artists, taking geometrical and perspective views and draughts of cities, towns, and countries, by land and water; in which at length he grew so excellent, especially for his landscapes in miniature, as not to be outdone in beauty and delicacy by any artist of his time. He had some instructions from Matthew Merian, an eminent engraver, and who is thought to have taught him that method of preparing and working on his plates which he constantly used. He was but eighteen when the first specimens of his art | appeared; and the connoisseurs in his works have observed, that he inscribed the earliest of them with only a cypher of four letters, which, as they explain it, was intended for the initials of. “Wenceslaus Hollar Pragensis xcudit.” He employed himseif chieth in copying heads and portraits, sometimes from Rembrandt, Henzelman, Fselix Biler, and other eminent artists; but h ^ uule delicate views of Strasburgh, Cologne, Mentz, Bon>, Francfort, and other towns along the Riiine, Danube, Necker, &c. got him his greatest reputation; and when Howard earl of Arundel, was sent ambassador to the emperor Ferdinand II. in 1636, he was so iiighly pleased with his performances, that he admitted him into his retinue. Hollar attended his lordship froai Cologne to the emperor’s court, and in this progress made several draughts and prints of the places through which they travelled. He took that view of Wurtzburgh under whicn is written, “Hoilar delineavit, in legatione Arundeliana ad Imperatorem.” He then made also a curious large drawing, with the pen and pencil, of the city of Prague, which gave great satisfaction to his patron, then upon the spot.

After lord Arundel had finished his negotiations in Germany, he returned to England, and brought Hollar with him: where, however, he was not so entirely confined to his lordship’s service, but tnat he had the liberty to accept of employment from others. Accordingly, we soon find him to have been engaged by the printsellers; and Peter Stent, one of the most eminent among them, prevailed lipon him to make an ample view or prospect of and from the town of Greenwich, which he finished in two plates, 1637; the earliest dates of his works in this kingdom. In 1638, appeared his elegant prospect about Richmond; at which time he finished also several curious plates from the fine paintings in the Arundelian collection. In the midst of this employment, arrived Mary de Medicis, the queenmother of France, to visit her daughter Henrietta Maria queen of England; and with her an historian, who recorded the particulars of her journey and entry into this kingdom. His work, written in French, was printed at London in

1639, and adorned with several portraits of the royal family, etched for the purpose by the hand of Hollar. The same year was published the portrait of his patron the earl of Arundel on horseback; and afterwards he etched another of him in armour, and several views of his | countryseat at Aldbrough in Surrey. In 1640, he seems to have been introduced into the service of the royal family,“togive the prince of Wales some taste in the art of designing; and it is intimated, that either before the -eruption of the civil wars, or at least before he was driven by them abroad, he was in the service of the duke of York. This year appeared his beautiful set of figures in twenty-eight plates, entitled,” Ornatus Muliebris Anglicanus," and containing the several habits of English women of all ranks or degrees: they are represented at full length, and have rendered him famous among the lovers of engraving. In 1641, were published his prints of king Charles and his queen: but now the civil wars being broke out, and his patron the earl of Arundel leaving the kingdom to attend upon the queen and the princess Mary, Hollar was left to support himself. He applied himself closely to his bu<iness, and published other parts of his works, after Holbein, Vandyck, &c. especially the portraits of several persons of quality of both sexes, ministers of state, commanders of the army, learned and eminent authors; and especially another set or two of female habits in divers nations in Europe. Whether he grew obnoxious as an adherent to the earl of Arundel, or as a malignant for drawing so many portraits of the royal party, is not expressly said: but now it seems he was molested, and driven to take shelter under the protection of one or more of them, till they were defeated, and he taken prisoner of xvar with them, upon the surrender of their garrison at Basing-house in Hampshire. This happened on Oct. 14, 1645; but Hollar, either making his escape, or otherwise obtaining his liberty, went over to the continent after the earl of Arundel, who resided at Antwerp, with his family, and had transported thither his most valuable collection of pictures.

He remained at Antwerp several years, copying from his patron’s collection, and working for printsellers, booksellers, and, publishers; but seems to have cultivated no interest among men of fortune and curiosity in the art, to dispose of them by subscription, or otherwise most to his advantage. In 1647, and 1648, he etched eight or ten of the painters’ heads with his own, with various other curious pieces, as the picture of Charles I. soon after his death, and of several of the royalists; and in the three following years, many portraits and landscapes after BreughUl, Ei | sheimer, and Teniers, with the Triumphs of Death. He etched also Charles II. standing, with emblems; and also published a print of James duke of York, aetat. 18, aun. It>51, from a picture drawn of him when he was in Flanders, by Teniers. He was more punctual in his dates than roost other engravers, which have afforded very agreeable lights and directions, both as to his own personal history and performances, and to those of many others. At last, either not meeting with encouragement enough to keep him longer abroad, or invited by several magnificent and costly works proposed or preparing in England, in which his ornamental hand might be employed more to his advantage, he returned hither in 1652. Here he afterwards executed some of the most considerable of his publications: but though he was an artist superior to almost most others in genius as well as assiduity, yet he had the peculiar fate to work here, as he had done abroad, still in a state of subordination, and more to the profit of other people than himself. Notwithstanding his penurious pay, he is said to have contracted a voluntary affection to his extraordinary labour; so far, that he spent almost two-thirds of his time at it, and would not suffer himself to be drawn or disengaged from it, till his hour-glass had run to the last moment proposed. Thus he went on in full business, till the restoration of Charles II. brought home many of his friends, and him into fresh views of employment. It was but two years after that memorable epocha, that Evelyn published his “Sculptura, or the History and Art of Chalcography and engraving in copper:” in which he gave the following very honourable account of Hollar: “Winceslaus Hollar,” says he, “a gentleman of Bohemia, comes in the next place: not that he is not before most of the rest for his choice and great industry, for we rank them very promiscuously both as to time and pre-eminence, but to bring up the rear of the Germans with a deserving person, whose indefatigable works in aqua fortis do infinitely recommend themselves by the excellent choice which he fyath made of the rare things furnished out of the Arundelian collection, and from most of the best hands and designs: for such were those of L. da Vinci, Fr. Parmensis, Titian, Julio Komano, A. Mantegna, Corregio, Perino del Vaga, Raphael Urbin, Seb. del Piombo, Palma, Albert Durer, Hans Holbein, Vandyck, Rubens, Breughel, Bassan, Elheimer, Brower, Artois, and divers other masters of prime | note, whose drawings and paintings he hath faithfully copied; besides several books of landscapes, towns, solemnities, histories, heads, beasts, fowls, insects, vessels, and other signal pieces, not omitting what he hath etched after I>e Cleyn, Mr. Streter, and Dankerty, for sir Robert Stapleton’s * Juvenal,‘ Mr. Ross’s * Silius Italicus,’ ‘ Polyglotta Biblia,’ * The Monasticon,‘ first and second part, Mr. Dugdale’s ’ St. Paul’s,‘ and ’ Survey of Warwickshire,' with other innumerable frontispieces, and things by him published, and done after the life; and to be on that account more valued and esteemed, than where there has been more curiosity about chimeras, and things which are not in nature: so that of Mr. Hollar’s works we may justly pronounce, there is not a more useful and instructive collection to be made.

Some of the first things Hollar performed after the Restoration, were, “A Map of Jerusalem;” “The Jewish Sacrifice in Solomon’s Temple;” “Maps of England, Middlesex, &c.” “View of St. George’s Hospital at Windsor;” “The Gate of John of Jerusalem near London;” and many animals, fruits, flowers, and insects, after Barlow and others: many heads of nobles, bishops, judges, and great men; several prospects about London, and London itself, as well before the great fire, as after its ruin and rebuilding: though the calamities of the fire and plague in 1655 are thought to have reduced him to such difficulties, as he could never entirely vanquish. He was afterwards sent to Tangier in Africa, in quality of his majesty’s designer, to take the various prospects there of the garrison, town, fortifications, and the circumjacent views of the country: and many of his drawings on the spot, dated 1669, preserved in the library of the late sir Hans Sloane, were within three or four years after made public, upon some of which Hollar styles himself “Stenographus Regis.” After his return to England, he was variously employed, in finishing his views of Tangier for publication, and taking several draughts at and about Windsor in 1671, with many representations in honour of the knights of the garter. About 1672, he travelled northward, and drew views of Lincoln, Southwell, Newark, and York Minster; and afterwards was engaged in etching of towns, castles, churches, and their fenestral figures, arms, &c. besides tombs, monumental effigies with their inscriptions, &c. in such numbers as it would almost be endless to enumerate. Few | artists have been able to imitate his works; for which reason many lovers of the art, and all the curious both at home and abroad, have, from his time to ours, been zealous to collect them. But how liberal soever the) 7 might be in the purchase of his performances, the performer himseU, it seems, was so incompetently rewarded for them, that he could not, in his old age, keep himself free from the incumbrances of debt; though he, was variously and closely employed to a short time before his death. But as many of his plates are dated that year, in the very beginning of which he died, it is probable they were somewhat antedated by him, that the sculptures might appear of the same date with the book in which they were printed: thus, in “Thoroton’s Antiquities of Nottinghamshire,” some of them appear unfinished; and the 50 1st page, which is entirely blank, was probably Jeft so for a plate to be supplied. When he was upon the verge of his seventieth year, he had the misfortune to have an execution at his house in Gardiner’s-lane, Westminster: he desired only the liberty of dying in his bed, and that he might not be removed to any other prison but his grave. Whether this was granted him or not, is uncertain, but he died March 28, 1677, and, as appears from the parishregister of St. Margaret’s, was buried in the New Chapel Yard, near the place of his death. Noble and valuable as the monuments were which Hollar had raised for others, none was erected for him: nor has any person proposed an epitaph worthy of the fame and merits of the artist.

Mr. Grose, from the information of Oldys, has favoured the public with some anecdotes of the conscientiousness of this eminent artist which are not noticed by Vertue. He used to work for the booksellers at the rate of four-pence an hour; and always had an hour-glass before him. He was so very scrupulously exact, that, when obliged to attend the calls of nature, or whilst talking, though with persons for whom he was working, and about their own business, he constantly laid down the glass, to prevent the sand from running. It is to be lamented that such a man should have known distress. His works amount, according to Yertue’s catalogue, to nearly 2400 prints. They are generally etchings performed almost entirely with the point, yet possess great spirit, with astonishing freedom and lightness, especially when we consider how highly be | has finished some of them. In drawing the human figure he was most defective; his outlines are stiff and incorrect, and the extremities marked without the least degree of knowledge. In some few instances, he had attempted to execute his plates with the graver only: but in that has failed very much. 1


Life by Verluc, 1745, 4to. Biog. Brit. —Strutt’s Dictionary.