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Wenceslaus Hollar after Abraham van Diepenbeeck, Charles II

Etching 44.3 x 33 cm. Baillieu Library Collection, The University of Melbourne, Gift of Dr. Orde Poynton, 1959, Accession No. : 1959.3028.000.000.
Wenceslaus Hollar (b. Prague 1607 – d.1677) (Griffiths and Kesnerová, 1983, p. viii), the engraver of each of these prints, had been working in Germany as a topographical artist for nine years when he met the Earl of Arundel and began working for him in 1636 (Parry, 1981, p. 124 and Perl, 1995 pp. 36- 38). Through Arundel, Hollar became familiar with the Court of Charles I. In 1640 Charles I appointed Hollar as drawing master to his son, the future Charles II, the subject of these prints (Godfrey, 1995, p. 45). Hollar had previously completed Charles II as Prince of Wales (Godfrey, 1995, p.15). He was also commissioned by the King to complete plates of Anthony van Dyck’s portrait of him, which is known as the print includes a note ‘cum privilegio regis’ (Sharpe, 2010, p. 342). While in London, Hollar also worked for the Dutchman, Peter Stent, the first major publisher of prints in England (Tindall, 2002, pp. 56-57; Sharpe, 2010, p. 209; Pierce, 2004, p.817.) However, most of Hollar’s work in this period tends to be self-published, with no publisher indicated (Godfrey, 1995, p. 15). 

While the artists van Dyck, (b. Antwerp 1599 – d.1641),  Cornelis I Schut, (b. Antwerp, 1597 – d. 1655) and Abraham van Diepenbeeck (b. Netherlands 1596 – d. 1675 ) (Strong, 1972; Wilmer, 1996, pp. 1-2; Steadman, 1982, pp, 1-3) created the original designs, Hollar was known to change or adapt the images he engraved. In his version of van Dyck’s Archbishop Laud, he excludes many details of the original (Parry, 1981, p. 132 and Pierce, 2004, p. 817). To his 1644 engraving of van Dyck’s portrait of Charles I in armour completed in 1638, Hollar adds symbols of the civil war: pikemen, canons and drums, to create a royalist propaganda message promoting the power of the king (Sharpe, 2010, p. 342). Hollar has added similar symbols in these images of Charles II.

In 1642, the Earl of Arundel left England due to the civil wars and Hollar ceased working for him directly (Godfrey, 1995, p. 16). In 1644, Hollar too left for Antwerp (Arundel had moved on to Padua) until 1652, returning briefly in 1651 (Perl, 1995, pp. 36- 38 and Tindall, 2002, p. 101). There is very little documented evidence of Hollar’s time in Antwerp (Griffiths and Kesnerová, 1983, p. 43). Tindall (2002, pp. 56-7) notes that while he was abroad, he was still making money through Stent, which might mean that these prints were published in England even though Hollar himself was in Antwerp. Hollar contacted Hendrick van der Borcht, who had links to Arundel, upon arriving in Antwerp and he was responsible for publishing many of the prints that had a connection to England. Thus, he most likely published these prints of Charles II (Griffiths and Kesnerová, 1983, p. 43). For the most part Jan Meyssens and Francis van den Wyngaerde published Hollar’s work during this period (Godfrey, 1995, p.18). The lack of publishers’ names suggests these prints were not commissioned (Griffiths and Kesnerová, 1983, p. 44).

Van Diepenbeeck produced other images of Charles II, such as Charles II on Horseback, used for a tapestry, and an image of him for La Méthode Nouvelle in 1657, which was also engraved by Hollar (Steadman, 1982, pp. 42 and 48). Diepenbeeck’s political sympathies can be inferred from his work for the Duke of Newcastle, a royalist exile in Antwerp (Steadman, 1982, p. 41). This undated van Diepenbeeck print is based on his design now in the Ashmolean Museum (Pennington, 1982, cat. no. 1444).

Although these prints were produced when Hollar was in Antwerp, they are firmly based in the English political scene and have political significance in terms of the civil war. There were many images of the King and his family produced in engravings, prints, and woodcuts that circulated throughout England and abroad presumably by royalists asserting the King’s divine right and authority (Sharpe, 2010, pp. 342 and 344). The dates of the prints are significant. On 30 January 1649 Charles I was executed and England became a commonwealth under Cromwell (Tindall, 2002, p. 99). In February Charles’s son was proclaimed King Charles II first from his place of exile in Jersey and then later in Scotland (Sharpe, 2010, p. 414 and Fraser, 1979, p. 81). The print after van Dyck is part of a set called Iconographie, completed that year, and its caption reads ‘Carolvs II D.G.: Magna Britannia Fra. Et Hibernia rex etc.’ (Godfrey, 1995, p. 115). Thus it declares that Charles II is, by the grace of God, King of England, France and Ireland even though parliament was effectively ruling from London and the divine right of Kings had been rejected (Tindall, 2002, p. 100). The original plate was changed; the words were shortened, to add the words ‘natus a 1630’ (Pennington, 1982, cat. 1442). Through the window, the view of the Banqueting House places Charles II in his rightful place in the Palace of Whitehall rather than in exile, as he was at the time of printing. It is also the place of Charles’s father’s execution, affirming that after his father’s death he is the rightful king (Godfrey, 1995, pp. 114 -115.).

The prints after van Diepenbeeck and Schut use popular baroque allegory to portray the power and majesty of Charles II. In Antwerp, there was a trend towards allegorical and mythological themes applauding the virtues of monarchs abroad (Wilmers, 1996, pp. 3-4). The print after Schut contains similar allegory to his Allegory on the Death of Arundel, also engraved by Hollar. It depicts Charles being crowned by Jupiter, holding his thunderbolt and riding his eagle (Battistini, 2005, p. 187). Minerva, a symbol of courage and strength, with attributes of helmet and shield, with its gorgon’s head, guards Charles (Battistini, 2005, p. 329). Angels flutter around him, symbols of divinity and Charles’ divine right to rule England (Sharpe, 2010, p. 343). Defeated at Charles’ feet lies a dragon, a symbol of rebellion, which has in its clutches, an allegory of what Pennington believes to be London, portrayed as Tyche, with her headdress of city walls and St George’s shield (Sharpe, 2010, p. 358, and Pennington, 1982, cat. 1445; Hammond and Scullard, 1970, pp. 1100-1101). This represents Charles II’s rescue of London from the dragon of rebellion, the parliament, which held power there. Putti use rope to prop up a column marked ‘Majestas’ which has been toppled by the dragon. Joined to this rope are a scale and sword, symbols of justice (Battistini, 2005, p. 299). The dragon traps a putto holding a book marked ‘Pietas’, Roman virtue of loyalty to the fatherland (Hammond and Scullard, 1970, p. 833). In all three prints Charles II holds a royal staff. In the prints after Schut and van Diepenbeeck Charles wears armour, a sign of military might. Charles was planning to join forces with the Scots to raise an army to win back his place as monarch (Sharpe, 1987, p. 27). The print after van Diepenbeeck shows Charles with his crown beside him. Behind him, Minerva attacks a retreating army of Roundheads. In the top right, a phoenix is born again from the flames, and the sun rises on the horizon, symbols of a new era (Carr-Gomm, 2000, p. 180). Around the inscription there rest a cornucopia with fruit, a sign of abundance, victory and strength; armour, referring to military success; a trumpet, also a sign of victory and the ancient Roman symbol of the fasces, a symbol of unity which alludes to the Roman empire, placing Charles on par with great Roman emperors (Battistini, 2005, p. 314). The Latin inscription in both of these prints describes the illustration and names the allegorical figures as well as declaring Charles II King.

Further details to follow.
Battisini, 2005Battistini, Matilde. Symbols and Allegories in Art. Trans. Stephen Sartarelli. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Trust. 2005.Carr-Gomm, 1995 

Carr-Gomm, Sarah. Dictionary of Symbols in Art: the illustrated key to Western painting and sculpture. London: Duncan Baird Publishers, 1995.

Fraser, 1979

Fraser, Antonia. King Charles II. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979.

Godfrey, 1995

Godfrey, Richard T. Wenceslaus Hollar: a Bohemian Artist in England. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Griffiths and Kesnerová, 1983

Griffiths, Antony and Kesnerová, Gabriela. Wenceslaus Hollar Prints and Drawings: from the collections of the National Gallery, Prague, and the British Museum London. London: British Museum Publications, 1983.

Hammond and Scullard, 1970

Hammond and Scullard, The Oxford Classical Dictionary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970.

Parry, 1981

Parry, Graham. The Golden Age Restor’d: The Culture of the Stuart Court, 1603-42. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1981.

Pennington, 1982

Pennington, Richard. A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Work of Wenceslaus Hollar, 1607- 1677. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Perl, 1995

Perl, Jed. “Jed Perl on Art” New Republic 212 (1995): 36-38.

Pierce, 2004

Pierce, Helen. “Anti-Episcopy and Graphic Satire in England, 1640-1645” The Historical Journal 47 (2004): 809-848.

Sharpe, 1987

Sharpe, J.A.. Early Modern England: A Social History 1550-1760. London: Edward Arnold, 1987.

Sharpe, 2010

Sharpe, Kevin. Image Wars: Promoting Kings and Commonwealths in England 1603-1660. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2010.

Steadman, 1982

Steadman, David W. Abraham van Diepenbeeck. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1982.

Strong, 1972

Strong, Roy. Van Dyck: Charles I on Horseback. London: Penguin Press, 1972.

Tindall, 2002

Tindall, Gillian. The Man who Drew London: Wenceslaus Hollar in Reality and Imagination. London: Chatto and Windus, 2002.

Wilmers, 1996.

Wilmers, Gertrude. Cornelis Schut (1597-1655): A Flemish Painter of the High Baroque. Belgium: Brepols, 1996.


Sophie Hoffman, University of Melbourne student enrolled in the subject Medieval Manuscripts and Early Print.

Edited by Tim Ould, research assistant on this project and PhD candidate in Art History at the University of Melbourne.

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