The ‘EARLIEST DATED LONDON VIEW’ (Hind) and Hollar’s first important work in England. The engraver Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-77) holds a high reputation. He is one of the first to record in such detail and quantity the English way of life in the seventeenth century. The breadth and depth of his work is remarkable. He was born in Prague on 13 July 1607 as Václav Hollar, which he would later anglicise. His childhood was a life of some privilege which enabled him access to some of the finest art works of the era, including that of the principal court engraver Aegidius Sadeler with whom it is believed Hollar learnt to engrave. Hollar’s early work was in Prague but the turmoil at home encouraged him to go to Stuttgart, Germany in 1627. Two years later he appears to have moved further west to Strasbourg. His natural talent flourished alongside the likes of Jan van de Velde and shortly after Matthaus Merian in Frankfurt. He worked all along the river Rhine including the Dutch towns.
It was in 1636 that a fortuitous meeting occurred with the English envoy Thomas Howard, the Earl of Arundel. Hollar joined the entourage and was employed to record their travels. At the end of the year the Earl of Arundel returned to England and was joined by Hollar. Not long after his arrival he engraved this panorama. Arundel had a house in Greenwich and this view focused on the recently completed Queen’s house would help him curry favour with the court. Russell stated of his work ‘careful, perceptive work, freely and rapidly executed and, because he was both draughtsman and etcher, reliable as a record of what he saw’.
The lodge on the left is the future site of the Royal Observatory. In the centre is the Queen’s house commenced in 1616 by Inigo Jones for Anne of Denmark, who was married to James I. After her death in 1619 the building remained unfinished until it recommenced for Queen Henrietta Maria in 1629, wife of Charles I. It was finally completed in 1635. It is considered England’s first truly classical building. At the time it was quite the novelty and earned the nickname of ‘The White House’. Behind it can be seen the Tudor palace of Greenwich. The river Thames can be seen through the background from London on the left in the background downriver towards Blackwall. Ships are plying their way up and down.
Only two known examples of the first state are known, one in the British Museum discovered in Germany in 1857, the other acquired for the Royal Library, Windsor. A second state removed the dedication, it was likely issued around the time of the Queen’s unpopularity when she eventually left the county in January 1642. The third state was presumably issued shortly after when a poem in Latin was added, written by Hollar’s friend Henry Peacham (1578- died in or after 1644), most likely before his death.
State 1 – Dated 1637. Two known examples
State 2 – c.1642. Dedication erased.
State 3 – c.1642. A four-line poem in Latin added to the cartouche followed by Hollar’s imprint again dated 1637
State 4 – c.1644. Imprint removed and replaced by four lines in English and Hollar identification. Outside the lower left margin is the imprint of Peter Stent added before 1665.
The active printseller Peter Stent (1613?-65) most likely acquired the engraving at the time Hollar left for Antwerp in 1644. It is recorded that Stent paid Hollar the sum of 30 shillings for the plate, considered by some derisory. This is an example of the fourth state with the imprint unfortunately trimmed. Affixed below is a small engraving of Grinwich Castle by Hollar taken from Daniel King’s ‘Orthographical Designe’, c.1660. The page reference is to the Camden ‘Britannia’ of 1637.
Provenance: Sotheby’s London 7 December 1993 lot 185, a five-volume composite ‘History of England’ by David Hume 1806 with 1,644 plates! It had the bookplate of Richard Henry Alexander Bennet. The prints were collected by the noted Richard Bull (1721-1805) whose daughter was Elizabeth Bull of North Court Manor, Isle of Wight (1749-1809). She left her books to R. H. Alexander Bennet of Beckenham, Kent. The lines round the sheets are typical of Richard Bull, who had put the collection together; private English collection. Globe (1985) 359; Griffiths (1998) no 45 (illustrating the first state); Griffiths & Kesnerová (1983) no. 49; Hind (1922) no. 20, pl. 28; Hyde (1985) p. 15 & fig. 6 (state 3); ODNB; Pennington (1982) 977.4; Russell (1979) p. 23; Worms & Baynton-Williams (2011).