FIRST STATE, copper engraving, elephant in profile in his natural habitat, 10 smaller images showing an elephant performing tricks, central vertical fold, small print mark, slight offsetting, overall size 242 x 276mm, von der Hayden, Strasbourg, 1629
A scarce print showing the exhibition of the elephant ‘Hansken’, produced during Hollar’s residence in Frankfurt. 10-year-old Hansken performed at the 1629 Easter fair. In a letter, Johannes Peitzker describes Hansken as “…not only that he be wonderful to see himself, but also that he could do thirty tricks. And it was much bigger than the one who is painted at the Schmittstuben. [translated from German]”. These tricks include shooting a pistol with his trunk, blowing a trumpet and carrying a bucket of water for the audience to wash their hands.
Wencelaus Hollar was a Bohemian etcher whose work includes some 400 drawings and 3000 etchings. After studying in Frankfurt under engraver and publisher Matthaus Merian, he moved to Strasbourg, and then Cologne. Here he attracted the attention of the collector Thomas, Earl of Arundel, with whom he was associated for most of his life. The range of his work covers, from views and landscapes to portraits, ships and religious figures, provides a rich source of information about the 17th century. Collections of Hollar’s work are kept in the British Museum, Windsor Castle, The Fisher Library in Toronto, and the National Gallery in Prague.