Portrait of a Young Black Girl


Prague 1607 – London 1677

"Head of a Black Woman with a Lace Kerchief Hat", 1645

Etching, 7,5 x 5,5 cm
Singed at the higher left corner: [W.] Hollar fecit / [An]tverpiae Ao 1645

Literature: Pennington 2007; NHG 815

A very fine impression, dark and well-inked printing with great contrast, trimmed on or just outsight the plate mark below and on the right side, and into or on the plate mark at the top and left side, some inconspicuous spots, otherwise in good condition.

Seventeenth century portraits of black people are of the greatest rarity. What makes this piece all the more exceptional, is that the portraited woman is dressed in normal contemporary clothing of the middle class. She wears a lace kerchief hat on her head and a white shoulder warp with a double lace-trimmed border, as then fashionable.

Hollar made the portrait shortly after arriving in Antwerp, where he had become a master in the Guild of St. Luke’s somewhere between 1644-45, together with two other etchings, portraying a black boy and a black woman. The prints were probably done from life and demonstrate the artist’s exceptional ability of convincingly depicting a dark color skin in the medium of etching, a quality that certainly would have appealed to collectors.

Hollar made in total only five portraits of black people, all between 1635-45.

3 x 2 1/4 inches