Object Record

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Catalog number P164
Artist Hollar, Wenceslaus
Title Hawks and Owls
Date 1663
Object Name Print
Description This etching is a later facsimile reprint of a work by Wenceslaus Hollar (Bohemian draftsman, etcher, and illustrator, 1607-1677, active in Germany, Flanders, and England), each of which applies Hollar's detailed observation to a variety of human or natural subjects. Hollar made several series of studies of animals, such as butterflies, dogs, and even shells. Artworks depicting animals date back to cave paintings, but the naturalism of his etchings set a new standard. In the next generation, artist Maria Sybilla Merian (1647-1717) published several folios of meticulous engravings of plants and insects in South America (Metamorphosis Insectorium Surinamensium, 1705). The scrupulous visual recording seen in Merian's and Hollar's prints stems from the 17th-century concept that all natural things-even humble animals like birds and insects-are divine creations of God.

Hollar's etching depicts six birds in an interior setting suggesting a study room. Unlike Merian, Hollar takes the birds out of their natural context. This decision to isolate the object of study is similar to the "theatre" of surgeries on the human body popularized through Andreas Vesalius' medical treatise (1543). The attention to detail of the subject matter is completely objective, with an absence of artistic personality. This desire to study animals, and nature in general, in a visual form was a Renaissance development. Nicolaus Copernicus' astronomical treatise (1543), which concluded that the sun was the center of the universe, like Vesalius' anatomical treatise that dissected the human body for study, were achievements of the new spirit of empiricism. An individual's ability to experience and observe the inner soul, body, and world around them was one result of all these efforts. Hollar's work is a strong example of the merging of science and art and the beginnings of natural history.
Kimberley Babcock, in "SCHOLARS, EXPLORERS, PRIESTS, How the Renaissance Gave Us the Modern World," ex. cat. G -T M, Queens College, CUNY, February 2 - March 27, 2010, 25.
Medium/Material Ink on paper
Dimensions H-5.5 W-7.5 inches
Search Terms Baroque
17th century AD
Great Britain
Exhibition and Publication History * "SCHOLARS, EXPLORERS, PRIESTS, How the Renaissance Gave Us the Modern World," Curated by James M. Saslow, G -T M, Queens College, CUNY, February 2 - March 27, 2010, # 25, ill.
Culture Bohemian/English