“The cold, not cruelty makes her weare Fur in Winter and Wild beast’s haire. For smoother skin at night embraceth her with more light.” The Chech artist Wenceslaus Hollar & his etchings of 17th C. seasonal fashion & accessory collections for London ladies.

Hollar’s portraits of 17th century fashionistas & still lifes of their acoutrements showcase that even three centuries 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 rendet that soft fur with just a few etched lines, he seems to be saying, you can almost feel it.” Hollar was a pioneer in that he was the first printmaker to use accessories in his still lifes.

Portrait of Wenceslaus Hollar (23 July 1607 – 25 March 1677) by Jan Meyssens (with Prague Castle in the background).

The diversity of women’s clothing in England is extensively illustrated in this costume series. Hollar depicted women from all walks of life, from a humble country woman to a noble lady. 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.

Unusally, Hollar showcased the day’s fashion seasonally. Spring, Summer, Autumn & Winter. “Collections” theat 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.

Design for an ornamental scabbard.
Wenceslaus Hollar, after Hans Holbein (II). 1645 etching.
English woman of standing with mask in front of the face.
Wenceslaus Hollar. 1640 etching.
Fur muff decorated with a ribbon. Wenceslaus Hollar. 1647 etching.
Portrait of a woman with a V-shaped bourrelet on her head, Wenceslaus Hollar, after Martin Schongauer, 1646
Shell, nautilus pompilius, Wenceslaus Hollar, 1644 – 1652 etching
Fur muff and stole, Wenceslaus Hollar, 1645
Winter and Summer, Wenceslaus Hollar, 1643 etching.
“The cold, not cruelty makes her weare Fur in Winter and Wild beasrs haire. For smoother skin at night embraceth her with more light.”
Muff, seen from five sides, Wenceslaus Hollar, 1645 – 1646 etching.
English Lady in a Winter Costume, Wenceslaus Hollar, 1644 etching
Ornatus Muliebris Anglicanus (The Dress of English Women), Wenceslaus Hollar, 1640.
Six Lying Hounds, Wenceslaus Hollar, 1647 etching.
Woman with stiff lace collar and fur cap,
Wenceslaus Hollar, 1645 etching.
Woman with transparent collar and houpette,
Wenceslaus Hollar, 1643 etching.
Still Life with Accessories, Wenceslaus Hollar, 1647 etching.

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Reijer Stolk.