The exhibition “Wenceslaus Hollar in the Service of English Nobility” is open until the end of this year.
The National Gallery’s Collection of Prints and Drawings, which houses one of the world’s three largest and most outstanding collections of prints and drawings by Wenceslaus Hollar (along with the British Museum in London and the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto), has made a truly unique acquisition: a hitherto-unknown etching by Wenceslaus Hollar.
Until recently the knowledge of Hollar’s etched work (by whom nearly 3,000 etchings are known to exist) was considered complete and few would have expected another work by the artist to emerge. This is why the acquisition of this yet-unknown print is of extraordinary importance. The sheet depicts a coat of arms with three bells in an ornate frame, signed by the artist and dated 1651.
The etching is executed in Hollar’s distinctive etching technique and his characteristic delicate manner that continues to be justly a subject of admiration. The depicted coat of arms probably belongs to the Porter noble family of English-Scottish provenance. As we know, after moving to England in 1636, Hollar worked for Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, a notable English aristocrat and avid art collector, and continued to work for the English nobility during his sojourn in Antwerp in 1646–1652 – a period that this etching dates from (1651).
With respect to our knowledge of Wenceslaus Hollar’s oeuvre, the discovery of this unique, yet-unknown etching is of extraordinary importance even on an international scale. For the National Gallery in Prague, this acquisition from a foreign collection represents a superb addition to the holdings of works by Hollar. The purchase was made possible through a grant from the Czech Ministry of Culture’s ISO programme.
Currently, the print is on display in the recently opened Print Cabinet in Schwarzenberg Palace as part of the exhibition “Wenceslaus Hollar in the Service of English Nobility”, where it will be on view until the end of this year.