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Alena Volrábová

Wenceslaus Hollar and Friedrich Bentel

Wenceslaus Hollar left Prague for Germany at the age of 20 in 1627. He first stayed in Stuttgart, where he got to know other young artists, with one of whom, Johann Wilhelm Baur, he may have been close. Baur came from Strasbourg and was a pupil of the miniaturist and print designer Friedrich Brentel. Since Hollar, in the brief autobiography under his portrait by Jan Meyssens, proclaimed that he was attracted to the art of miniatures, it is likely that he may have wanted to train in this field under the same teacher as Baur. He left for Strasbourg and worked in the studio of Jacob van der Heyden, where he made etchings after models by Netherlandish colleagues, in particular Jan van de Velde. Brentel also collaborated with this workshop. The Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe houses two sketchbooks known as ‘Brentel’s sketchbooks’, containing mostly work by Brentel, but also drawings by other artists. Some of the drawings from these albums can be attributed to Wenceslaus Hollar, including some vedute from his journey to Holland, which were recently published. A series of small drawings of female costumes from these albums are also the work of Wenceslaus Hollar, and served as preparatory sketches for his costume series. Two views of half-timbered buildings in a landscape can also be attributed to him. The etchings that were based on them have been pronounced to be Brentel’s work, and recently inappropriately removed from Hollar’s graphic œuvre. We can now return them to their rightful place. Also to be found in Brentel’s sketchbook are several landscape drawings that we can attribute to Hollar on the basis of style. Various notes by the artist written on the drawings, relating to the date or aspects of the landscape, correspond to Hollar’s usual practices. In particular, there are two small drawings of views, one of the landscape near Cologne dated 1636, and the other of a forest landscape with a distant panorama of a town, marked ‘Prag’. The discovery of drawings by Wenceslaus Hollar in Friedrich Brentel’s sketchbooks extends our knowledge of Hollar’s work as a draughtsman. It is not impossible that Hollar was Brentel’s pupil, but for the moment we have no direct proof of this, and all we can say is that they both moved in the same circles, and that Hollar may have drawn inspiration from the miniaturist, especially where his figural work is concerned.

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