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Wenceslaus Hollar was born in 1607, the son of an upper middle-class civic official. Very little is known about his early life, but he evidently learned the rudiments of his craft by age eighteen, left his native Prague at age twenty, and likely studied in Frankfurt under Matthaus Merian. His first book of etchings was published in 1635 in Cologne when Hollar was twenty-eight. The following year he came to the attention of the renowned art collector the Earl of Arundel who was making an official visit to the continent, and Hollar subsequently became a part of his household, settling in England early in 1637. He remained in England during the beginning of the English Civil War period, but left London for Antwerp in 1642, where he continued to work on a variety of projects. In 1652 he returned to England, working on a number of large projects for the publisher John Ogilby and for the antiquary Sir William Dugdale. Hollar was in London during the Great Fire of 1666, and remains most famous for his scenes of the city before and after the fire. He was one of the most skilled etchers of his or any other time, which is all the more remarkable given that he was almost blind in one eye. Hollar died in London on 25 March 1677. By his life’s end, he had produced some 2700 separate etchings. [1]

In his collection of prints I found one with four caterpillars and a snail. Since it is dated 1646, it may have been made during his Antwerp period. The snail is realistic and detailed, the shell sinistral as seen in the engraving. Due to the technique used this mirror image was probably unintentionally [2]. The shell shows a darker peripheral spiral band; it is possible that a locally abundant Cepaea species has inspired the artist.

1646 UTL Wenceslas_Hollar_-_Four_caterpillars_and_a_snail

Notes:
[1] http://link.library.utoronto.ca/hollar/
[2] Allmon, W.D. (2007). The evolution of accuracy in natural history illustration: reversal of printed illustrations of snails and crabs in pre-Linnean works suggests indifference to morphological detail. Archives of natural history 34: 174–191. Especially p. 184, 186.

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