[Portraits of Celebrated Courtezans].

ts of Celebrated Courtezans].

8vo.; 10 engraved portrait plates (c. 100 x 62 mm) on wove paper; pale dampstain to head, else very good in mid nineteenth-century crushed red morocco, gilt, joints rubbed; bookplates of Charles Francis Adams Jr (1905, grandson of John Quincy Adams, great-grandson of John Adams) and of Robert S Pirie.


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A famous series of London courtesan portraits, long attributed to Hollar, but that attribution rejected by Pennington and New Hollstein. The first mention of the series comes in print dealers’ catalogues of the early nineteenth century, though the British Museum has an example on laid paper that may be earlier; it was also issued later in the nineteenth century with an undated title-page as Portraits of celebrated courtezans from the original copper plates engraved by W. Hollar in the reign of Charles the Second, and it seems to be from that printing that the present set derives.

Each portrait is accompanied by a disguised name and indication of the cost of their services: ‘Elia F–k / 10 Guis a time’, ‘Betsy Ch–r / a Treat & a Peace / fresh cull’, ‘Mugn W–r / a Tramper / a Pint & a Hog’. Some of the images are copied from Hollar’s Theatrum mulierum (1643), though quite heavily reworked. Whether these are real Restoration courtesans and streetwalkers, and whether the series was printed ‘from the original plates’ or entirely a confection of the under-the-counter nineteenth-century print trade, has yet to be established.

Pennington 1944A; New Hollstein R148-157.

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