- Museum number
- Object: The true and lively Pourtraicture of the most Illustrious Prince Fredericke ...
Broadside with an engraving with portraits of Frederick and Elizabeth of Bohemia with five children, with letterpress title above and two columns of verse below. 1621
Engraving and letterpress
- Production date
Height: 177 millimetres
Height: 287 millimetres
Width: 211 millimetres (plate)
Width: 213 millimetres (sheet)
- Curator's comments
- (Text from Antony Griffiths, 'The Print in Stuart Britain', BM 1998, cat.21)
Willem de Passe began his career by working in Utrecht for his father, after whose designs he made half a dozen religious prints and sets of the ten penitent sinners and the five senses. His first connection with England came in the plates he made for the 'Heroologia' of 1620. This is probably the first plate he made after he came to London in 1621. It shows the family of Frederick and Elizabeth of Bohemia after the birth of their fifth child, Prince Maurice, on 16 January 1621, shortly after the Battle of the White Mountain and the loss of Bohemia and the Palatinate had condemned them to what was to become permanent exile.
The lettering clearly states that Willem de Passe had drawn it from life. If so he must have seen them in Holland, where the royal couple was received by Maurice of Orange on 14 April 1621. The first fruits of his seeing them were two small oval portraits published by his father Crispijn who described himself in the lettering as their 'devotus cliens' (Hollstein 38,39 where they are plausibly attributed to Willem). This large group portrait must have been engraved later that year in London, since it carries the address of Thomas Jenner.
The description of the print is in the existing literature is confusing. Granger stated that there was a first state with only four children, and that the fifth child Maurice was added to make a second state. This is impossible: the iconography postdates the Battle of the White Mountain, and one can see that the fifth child has not been added but forms part of the initial composition.
The five child version is therefore the first state, and is known in two impressions on broadsheets in English and Dutch. The English version has the title above and 32 lines of letterpress verse below, and an imprint 'Printed Anno Dom.1621'. The Dutch version (in the Rijksmuseum) has 40 verses below signed by an unknown 'T.L.H.D.H. Patricius Anno Domini 1621'. Both have the same lettering in the plate 'Wil.Pass fecit et ad vivum figurator' and 'Are to be sould by Thomas Jenner at ye sine of the white Beare by ye exchange'. But they differ in the engraved list of the five children: the English version has 'A daughter 3', while the Dutch has 'Elizabeth 3'. This establishes that the English version precedes the Dutch, and that both editions were printed in London. This is supported by the Dutch impression's being weaker, and by the identity of the printer's ornament running down the centre of the letterpress.
It is only possible to speculate what lies behind this. Willem must have brought his drawing of the Bohemian royal family to London, and made a deal with Jenner to act as his publisher. He must have retained an agent (presumably his father) to sell the Dutch edition in Holland. The plate remained in London, for it was reissued on at least two later occasions with more children added - first with six, later with ten - by which time the plate was completely worn out.
On 20 September 1621 Henry Holland registered with the Stationers Company 'The portraicture of the king and queene of Bohemia and their children graven in wood. Henry, Charles, Robert, Maurice and Elizabeth'. No impression of this woodcut survives, but one might guess that it was copied from this engraving.
Additional commentary --
a version of this broadside (missing letterpress verses below) is in a private collection. It has a letterpress title in English (set slightly differently to P,1.39) but the copperplate is in the second state, i.e. with "Elizabeth 3" substituted for "A daughter 3" in the engraved lettering beneath the image. (With thanks to Michael Fleming, by email, October 2017).
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number