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Saturday 23 September 2017

Wenzel Hollar’s etching, “Woman with Pointed Black Head-dress”, 1648

Wenzel Hollar (aka Wenceslaus Hollar; Václav Hollar) (1607–77)
“Woman with Pointed Black Head-dress”, 1648, from the series of “Women’s Portraits in Ovals” (Pennington, 2002, cat. nos. 1725–31)

Etching on fine laid paper trimmed along (or slightly within) the plate mark.
Size: (sheet) 11.9 x 9.4 cm; (oval image borderline) 10.9 x 9 cm
Signed and dated outside oval at top right: “WHollar delineavuit / et fecit, 1648.”
Lifetime impression of the only state. (Note: Pennington advises that “Bor. [FA Borovsky] creates a second state from a supposed darkening of shadows under the chin—but erroneously.” [p. 288])

Pennington (2002) 1730; Parthey 1730; New Hollstein (German) 1025 (Hollar)

Richard Pennington (2002) offers the following description of this print in “A descriptive catalogue of the etched work of Wenceslaus Hollar 1607–1677”, Cambridge University Press:
“Bust, half l., eyes to front, in an oval, of a woman with fair hair hanging down on each side in ringlets and tied with black bows. She wears a dark cap on the back of her head, which tapers to a point on her forehead. A white shoulder wrap in three folds is held at her breast by a jewel inside a large black bow. Round her neck is a dark necklace from which hangs a cross.” (p. 288)

The British Museum offers the following description of this print:
“A young woman with fair curly hair in ringlets, tied with black bows, shown nearly half-length to left, looking towards the viewer; wearing a small black kerchief on her head, necklace with cross pendant, white shoulder wrap fastened with jewel on bow, over dark laced bodice; in an oval, against dark background.” (

Condition: richly inked, crisp, lifetime impression in superb condition. The print is trimmed along (or slightly within) the image borderline and there is a minor chip to the upper right corner. There are inscriptions from previous collectors and remnants of mounting hinges (verso).

I am selling this exquisite etching by one of the greatest printmakers of history exemplifying his skill to use almost unbelievably fine moulding stokes for the total cost of AU$223 (currently US$177.79/EUR148.72/GBP131.74 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world.

If you are interested in purchasing this small and exceptionally rare treasure of a print, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

Hollar’s etchings are not only superb in terms of technical skill—a not surprising attribute given that he was apprenticed to the great Matthäus Merian (1593–1650)—but he was also a prolific printmaker with having executed over 2700 plates (this etching is number 1730 in his large oeuvre). Beyond his technical skill, Hollar is best remembered for chronicling 17th century England in terms of cityscapes and detailed renderings of buildings, but his expertise extends beyond such enterprises as he also created many portraits—such as this superb example—along with illustrations for books (including the Bible) and delicate studies of subjects like insects, plants, shells and women’s muffs.

The identity of the sitter of this portrait is not clear, nevertheless, according to Pennington (2002) the Burlington Fine Arts Club “identifies the portrait as that of the wife of Alexander Roelants … and says it is sometimes taken for Mary Beaumont, mother of the first duke of Buckingham” (p. 288). The earlier cataloguer of Hollar’s prints, Gustav Parthey, proposes that the sitter is the marchioness of Buckingham. To add further confusion, Pennington cites FA Borovsky in his book on Hollar (1898) as attributing the portrait—“unconvincingly” according to Pennington—to “Catherine Howard Grandchild to Tho. Earle of Arundel” (p. 289).

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