Václav Hollar: Illustrations of Aesop’s Fables
Curator: Alena Volrábová
When Václav Hollar (1607-1677) returned to London in 1652 after many years in Antwerp, he found an England devastated by civil war. He, too, was in a difficult situation as his former patron had died. His livelihood was uncertain, and book illustrations became his primary source of income.
In addition, London was stricken by two major blows that long scarred the city - a plague epidemic in 1665 and a great fire in 1666. Life and culture, however, did not stop, and books continued to be published. Translator and editor John Ogilby translated and prepared a new edition of Aesop's Fables, and commissioned Hollar to illustrate them. One edition was published in 1665 and the second in 1666, this one more copiously illustrated and with the added short story Matron of Ephesus by Petronius. The models for the etchings were not always Hollar's - Francis Cleyn is often cited as their originator, and many were done after the older illustrations of Francis Barlow. Nevertheless, the landscape motifs or costume themes of several sheets clearly show that Hollar also used his own drawings as models. The collection of these etchings represents an attractive set of Hollar illustrations.