17th-Century Renderings of Native Virginians

Wenceslaus Hollar, a prolific maker of etchings in the 1600s, has an exhibit dedicated to his works now on display at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Born in Bohemia, he spent most of his adult life in Germany, Netherlands and England, where he cranked out a prodigious number of works, sometimes of his own contrivance, sometimes copying the paintings of others as etchings. Two renderings, I thought, were worthy of note for Bacon’s Rebellion, for they depicted the indigenous inhabitants of “Virginia” — a term used somewhat more loosely than it is today — before they were displaced by the Europeans. One etching is of the muscular gent above. And the other…

…is of the lovely lass to the left.

Hollar did literally dozens, if not hundreds, of portraits of aristocratic women, providing quite a record of 17th-century fashion. The Handmaid’s Tale ain’t got nothing on these dames. Almost every one wore a hat, bonnet or some kind of head covering or another. Some were downright bizarre. One device protruded from the woman’s top forehead like a unicorn’s horn.

If you’re a history geek, the Hollar exhibit is worth a visit. The show is open through May.

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One response to “17th-Century Renderings of Native Virginians

  1. Thanks for this heads up, Jim. I will try to get by there. I am overdue for the visit to the museum, as it is.

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