Wenceslaus Hollar’s portraits of 17th century fashionistas & still lifes of their accoutrement showcase that, even 300 years ago, some people could never have too many accessories. Part of the reason Hollar chose to feature all those muffs, satin gloves, velvet masks and feathered fans was that he was showing off his etching skills to possible patrons. “Look how well I can render that soft fur with such deftness, so many densely etched lines, you can almost feel it the fur,” he seems to be saying. Hollar was a pioneer, in that he was the first printmaker to feature accessories in his still lifes.
The diversity of women’s clothing in England is extensively illustrated in this costume series. Hollar depicted women from all walks of life, from humble country women to noblewomen. The more fashionable costumes are based on observations of the ladies at the court of the Earl of Arundel, Hollar’s principal patron. Therefore, these etchings are still among the most reliable visual sources for costume historians.
Unusually, Hollar showcased the day’s fashion seasonally. Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter. “Collections” that didn’t follow tradition and depict the farm work in the fields by season, but the way in which English women adapted their costumes for weather during the year. In Summer for example an English lady protects her face from the sun with a veil, and can choose to cool herself down with a fan.
– S P R I N G –
“Welcom sweet lady you do bring Rich presents of a hopefull Spring.”
– S U M M E R –
“How Phoebus crowns our Sumer dayes, with stronger heate and brighter rayes.
Her lonely neck, and brest are bare, whilst her fann dothe coole the air.”
– A U T U M N –
“In Sumer when wee walke to take the air, Wee thus are vayl’d to keep our faces faire.
And lest our beautie should be foyl’d with sweats, wee with our ayrie fannes depell the heate.
As Autumnes fruit doth mourne and wast And if not pluckt it dropps at last,
So of herself (she fearis) she shall, If not timely gather’d, fall.
Our joy and sorrow now come both together Autumne brings freute but Autumne brings here fast the first.
The last you’ll feele no doubt except attired like mee you kepe it out.
– W I N T E R –
“The cold, not cruelty makes her weare Fur in Winter and Wild beasrs haire.
For smoother skin at night embraceth her with more light.”
“…but though it be to hard for this attire yet wee’ll orecome it not with sword but fire.”
– A C C E S S O R I E S –
In 1647, Hollar showcased, for discerning noblemen, this series of essential seventeenth-century hunting paraphernalia. Fancy decorated arrow quivers, traditional ox horns and coiled trumpets.
Horns were used to blare messages out across vast hunting grounds when large parties of courtiers and their dogs became separated. Different melodies signaled the beginning and end of each stage of the hunt. Later, in the eighteenth century, new horns with larger harmonic ranges were developed. However, ox horns were still used, as they had become synonymous with the pastime.