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Object: Muff with a band of brocade

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Title Muff with a band of brocade
Production Hollar, Wenceslaus (artist), 1647, Flanders
Medium summary etching
Materials paper, ink
Classification prints, etchings, works on paper
Technique etching
Dimensions Plate: 84mm (Height) x 113mm (Length)
Support: 89mm (Height) x 120mm (Length)
Credit line Gift of Sir John Ilott, 1952
Registration number 1952-0003-128

Born in the imperial capital of Prague into a minor noble family, Wenceslaus Hollar became an artist against his father's wishes. Because of his family connections, he may have enjoyed access to the fabled collections of art and science assembled in Prague Castle by the eccentric Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II - an early experience that would have awoken in him a fascination with all things rare and curious.

After travels in Germany and Holland, during which time he produced many landscape drawings and etchings, Hollar was engaged by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, to care for his collection of paintings, drawings, sculpture and engraved gems. Hollar made drawings of many of Arundel's finest works, which he later made into etchings. He also made etchings for the London market, among them views of the city and a famous set of the 'four seasons' in which each season is represented by a fashionably dressed woman.

Muff with a band of brocade is one of a curious series of etchings that Hollar made in Antwerp in which the composition is made up of a single or multiple fur muffs - an indispensable fashion accessory of the time.

Hollar's muffs have long been the most appreciated of his etchings, both for their originality and extraordinary technique. His ability to convey the sensual softness of fur with the etching needle is unique. As in his series of moths, butterflies and shells, Hollar's depiction of the subject has an artful precision, which appealed to an age when all manner of natural and artificial objects were collected in cabinets of curiosities.

Hollar was a prolific etcher and he produced nearly 3000 works. Te Papa has a fine selection of his etchings, including his landscape views of German and Dutch towns, cityscapes and citizens of London, the spectacular series of butterflies and insects, and heads after caricatures by Leonardo da Vinci. Te Papa's impression of Muff with a band of brocade has the collector's mark of Sir John St Aubyn, a London collector of prints and minerals, and an amateur scientist.

From: David Maskill, 'Wenceslaus Hollar 1607-77 Bohemia', in Art at Te Papa, ed. William McAloon (Wellington: Te Papa Press, 2009), p. 32.

See also:

Richard Pennington, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Work of Wenceslaus Hollar 1607-1677 (Cambridge, 1982), p. 310 (no. 1946).

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