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WENZEL HOLLAR – ALBRECHT DÜRER: Jungfrau mit offenem Haar – Woman with unloosened hair (after Dürer): Quid virgo sparsis






This finely engraved copper engraving by Wenzel Hollar from 1646 is based on a Renaissance painting by a Nuremberg artist and one of the most famous German painters Albrecht Durer. The portrait shows a young woman with loose hair, looking downwards, holding her hands in a prayer. Durer’s monogram shows at a neutral background as well as a coat of arms of a noble family Furleger from Nuremberg.

The original painting named “Women with Unloosened Hair”, today in the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, probably represents Katharina Furleger, who was posing for Durer twice, also for a pendant version of this portrait. The other possibility is that Durer painted two sisters from the same family. The young woman on the other portrait has her hair pulled up in a neat Renaissance style. Durer painted the young Katharina Furleger as a Virgin Mary, what resembles his autoportrait painting himself with christomorphic features.


VáclavHollar: Restoration England’s Greatest Engraver

Václav Hollar (1607 – 1677), also known as Wenceslaus (in English) or Wenzel (in German) Hollar, was born in Prague, the capital of Bohemia in 1607, into a bourgeois Protestant family.  At the time of his birth, Prague was perhaps the greatest artistic center in Europe, due to the extravagant patronage of Emperor Rudolf II, who sponsored many of the continent’s greatest artists to reside in the city.  However, by the time of Václav’s adolescence, Prague and indeed all of Bohemia, was being ravaged by the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48).  The fortunes of his family were ruined and his plans to become a lawyer were doomed owing to his Protestant faith in a country now governed by Catholic zealots.  Hollar learned drawing, etching and engraving as a gentlemanly hobby, but in light of his new circumstances and his natural talent, became a professional artist.

While Hollar developed his own distinct style, he was very much influenced by the German Renaissance master Albrecht Dürer.  Many of his finest achievements are interpretations of Dürer’s works, including Women with Unloosened Hair (1646).

Hollar moved to the Stuttgart area in 1627, before continuing on to Strasbourg.  By 1633, he was in Cologne.  In 1636, that city, Hollar had the great fortune to encounter Thomas Howard, the 21st Earl of Arundel, who was on his way down the Rhine, returning to England from an embassy to Vienna.  Arundel was perhaps the greatest contemporary English connoisseur of the visual arts and, amazed by the young Czech’s awesome talent, he immediately invited him to join his entourage as his official artist.  By 1637, Hollar had relocated to England, and while he executed many assignments for Arundel, he was still free to pursue commissions from other patrons.

Shortly after his arrival in England, Hollar engraved a View of Greenwich, a massive panorama of the Thames port town featuring Inigo Jones’s pioneering work edifice, the Queen’s House.  Upon Arundel’s hasty departure from England (due to political reasons), Hollar switched to the employ of the Duke of York.  While the advent of the English Civil War (1642-8) ensured many new commissions, it also led to great financial troubles for Hollar, as many of his clients proved unable to pay the promised fees.  His etching Civilis Seditio (1643) is considered to be on of the most evocative images epitomizing the internecine conflict.  Hollar was eventually compelled to relocate to Antwerp, where his best-known work was the magnificent view, the Cathedral of Our Lady (1649).  Hollar returned to London in 1652.

Upon the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660, Hollar found himself in difficult position.  While he was apolitical and had many connections with leading Royalists, he was also close to some prominent members of Cromwell’s late administration.  While no outward punitive action was taken, Royalist officials suspected him of being disloyal and ungrateful to the king’s court and thus for years Hollar had great difficulty gaining commissions from the crown or the high nobility.  He did, however, earn business from commercial publishers and a few old friends in high places, although it was a hardscrabble existence.  It took some years for him to regain the trust of the court.

Václav Hollar the Cartographer

Hollar focused heavily on cartography, especially during the last decade or so of this life, and this helped to revive his career.  He is largely responsible for dramatically improving the quality of map engraving in London.  The Restoration Era saw a dramatic revival in the map industry in London, although initially the mediocre quality of the engraving hindered the merit of what were otherwise excellent maps.  Beyond his own works, Hollar’s superior skills as a fine art engraver set a much higher standard than other artists sought to emulate.  That being said, many of Hollar’s maps, such as A New and Exact map of Asia stand apart as being of a far higher level of artistic execution than that of other contemporary British maps.  

Curiously, Hollar’s first truly important map commission in England came from Thomas Jenner who charged him with engraving the famous ‘Quartermaster’s Map’ of England and Wales, formally known as the The kingdome of England & principality of Wales exactly described whith every sheere & the small townes in every one of them in six mappes, portable for every mans pocket … described by one that trauailled throughout the whole kingdome (1644).  This detailed map proved to be highly influential during the English Civil War (1642-8), being used, in particular, by Oliver Cromwell’s ‘New Model Army’. 

Notably, Hollar make a sketch that he engraved as the Long View of London from Bankside (1647), which is considered to be an iconic contemporary image of the city, praised for its accuracy and almost photographic perspective.

Hollar’s prominence as a map designer and engraver rose markedly in the wake of the Great Fire of London.  Charles II overcame his suspicions and commissioned Hollar to engrave the official plan recoding the devastation wrought by the conflagration, the so-called Richard Leake survey, entitled An exact surveigh of the streets, lanes and churches contained within the ruins of the City of London (1667).  His work earned Hollar the appointment of scenographia regis (royal view maker).  He was seen as an authority on the mapping of London, and his A new map of the Citties of London Westminster & y borough of Southwarke with their suburbs showing the Strets, lanes, Allies Courts etc with the remarks as they are now, Truthfully & Carefully delineated (1675), done for Robert Green and Robert Morden, is one of the finest historical maps of the city.


In 1668 Hollar was dispatched by the Crown to Tangiers, Morocco to take prospects of that city which had recently been ceded to England.  London merchants hoped (naively as it would transpire) that Tangiers would become a bustling trade entrepôt at the gates of the Mediterranean and enormous efforts were made to reconnoiter the town and its environs.  In Tangiers, Hollar worked closely with his friend, the esteemed engineer Sir Jonas Moore, for whom he had made and excellent map and prospect of the Thames Estuary in 1662.  Hollar’s work was printed by John Overton as Divers Prospects in and about Tangier (1668).  During Hollar’s return trip to England his ship, the Mary Rose, fought a sharp naval engagement with an Algerian vessel, which he recorded in a masterly print.


Hollar was called upon by the leading London mapmakers to engrave several of their most important works.  Highlights include his fine A New & Exact Map of ye Isle of Jamaica (1671), printed within Richard Blome’s A Description of Jamaica (1672), which is perhaps the most attractive early map of the island.  Notably, he also engraved maps for Blome’s A Geographical Description of His Majesties Kingdoms and Dominions of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1673).


By the time of his death in 1677, Václav Hollar had rendered 2,740 recorded etchings and engravings, many of which are today digitized online by the University of Toronto: http://link.library.utoronto.ca/hollar/


References: Hollstein, no. 1996; Parthey, no. 645a; Richard Pennington, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Work of Wenceslaus Hollar 1607-1677 (Cambridge, 2002), no. 645A (State i). Cf. Carlos Quirino, Philippine Cartography, p. 109 (citing 1676 edition).



Der feine Kupferstich von Wenzel Hollar aus dem Jahr 1646 wiederholt ein Gemälde des berühmten Nürnberger Renaissancekünstlers Albrecht Dürer. Es handelt sich um das Brustbild einer jungen Frau, die betend ihre Hände vor der Brust gefaltet und ihren Blick demütig gesenkt hat. Ein Stirnband aus gedrehten Perlschnüren hält das lange, über die Schultern wallende Lockenhaar aus der Stirn und sie trägt ein sittsam hochgeschlossenes Kleid. Auf dem neutralen Hintergrund sind das Monogramm Dürers und die Jahreszahl 1497 zu sehen sowie das Wappen der Patrizierfamilie Fürleger aus Nürnberg. Am unteren Blattrand befinden sich zwei lateinische Distichen.


Bei der Vorlage Dürers handelt es sich um ein Ölgemälde des Nürnberger Meisters aus dem Jahr 1497 (heute im Besitz des Frankfurter Städel Museums) mit dem Titel „Bildnis einer jungen Frau mit offenem Haar“ bzw. „Die Fürlegerin“. Es handelt sich um das Pendant zu dem „Bildnis einer jungen Frau mit aufgestecktem Haar“ (in Berlin), das ebenfalls im Jahr 1497 entstanden ist und vermeintlich dieselbe Frau zeigen soll (Hollar fertigte auch von diesem einen Kupferstich an).


Der alternative Titel „Die Fürlegerin“ des Bildes rekurriert auf die Zuschreibungsgeschichte des Bildes in der Dürer-Forschung des 19. Jahrhunderts.  Die dargestellte junge Frau wurde als Katharina Fürleger identifiziert, die Tochter einer reichen Nürnberger Patrizierfamilie. Diese soll Albrecht Dürer gleich zweimal porträtiert haben – einmal als andächtig Betende, einmal als herausgeputzte Dame mit aufgesteckten Haaren und tief ausgeschnittenen Kleid. Einen Beleg für diese These glaubte man in dem Wappen der Nürnberger Familie gefunden zu haben, das bei beiden Werken im Hintergrund zu erkennen ist. Tatsächlich gibt es jedoch kein historisches Zeugnis, das die Existenz einer Katharina Fürleger in Nürnberg in der fraglichen Periode belegen würde. Zudem sind die Familienwappen der Fürleger erst im frühen 17. Jahrhundert nachträglich auf die Bilder aufgebracht worden, als sich die Gemälde im Besitz der Patrizierfamilie befanden. Die Identifikation der Betenden mit einer Katharina Fürleger ist also ein Mythos der Dürer-Forschung des 19. Jahrhunderts.


Die demütige Haltung und sittsame Aufmachung der jungen Frau erinnert an eine Mariendarstellung und erscheint eher unüblich für eine Porträtdarstellung. So auch die erotisierende Darstellungsart ihres Pendants aus Berlin mit dem herausfordernden Blick, dem tief ausgeschnittenen Kleid und den kunstvoll hochgesteckten Haaren. Als Diptychon reagieren die beiden Figuren aufeinander, sind einander zugewandt und symbolisieren den Gegensatz zwischen Tugend und Laster oder der beiden Lebenswege der vita contemplativa und vita activa. Die beiden Frauen werden so zu einem Spiel Dürers mit gegensätzlichen Frauenrollen und Moralvorstellungen.


Wenzel Hollar (1607 in Prag-1677 in London) war ein böhmischer Zeichner und Kupferstecher, der den größten Teil seines Lebens in England verbrachte und bekannt für sein umfangreiches und äußerst qualitätsvolles Schaffen ist. Ursprünglich aus Prag stammend, zog Hollar 1627 nach Frankfurt am Main, wo er bei Matthäus Merian, dem berühmtesten Kupferstecher seiner Zeit, in die Lehre ging. Während seiner Frankfurter Zeit arbeitete Hollar u.a. an Merians Topographien mit.


1633 wurde in Köln Lord Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, der als englischer Gesandter zu Kaiser Ferdinand II. unterwegs war, auf Holler aufmerksam. Die Begegnung mit Arundel, einem der wichtigsten englischen Kunstsammler und Mäzene seiner Zeit, sollte für Hollars weiteres Leben entscheidend sein. Er begleitete den Earl of Arundel zunächst an den kaiserlichen Hof in seine Heimatstadt Prag, später nach Wien und auf ausgedehnte Reisen durch ganz Mitteleuropa. Als sein Förderer 1637 nach England zurückkehrte, folgte Hollar ihm nach London. Diese Verbindung erklärt den Vermerk auf dem vorliegenden Kupferstich „ex Collectione Arundeliana“.


Wenzel Hollar war nicht nur einer der besten sondern auch einer der fleißigsten Künstler seiner Zeit. Sein Werk umfasst rund 400 Zeichnungen und über 3.000 Radierungen. Mehr als 2.700 Druckplatten für Stiche sind von ihm bekannt. Seine Arbeiten zeichnen sich vor allem durch absolute Genauigkeit, Detailtreue und einen geradezu dokumentarischen Realismus aus. Bekannt ist Hollar auch für seine Druckgrafiken nach Werken berühmter Künstler wie Dürer, der für das Kunstempfinden und das technische Können Hollars von besonders großem Einfluss gewesen ist.



Literatur: Parthey, Gustav: Wenzel Hollar. Beschreibendes Verzeichnis seiner Kupferstiche, Berlin 1853 (mit aufgelöstem Haar: Nr. 1535, S. 851; mit hochgestecktem Haar: Nr. 1536, S. 851 f). – http://blog.staedelmuseum.de/alte-meister/bilder-des-monats-durers-ratselhafte-junge-frauen [Online: 16.04.1215]




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