Presented here as a group are four original etchings of women in European national dress from the master printmaker Wenceslaus Hollar's series "Aula Veneris: sive, Varietas foeminini sexus (The Court of Women: or, the Variety of the Most Feminine Sex)". Prints of men and women in costume were a popular genre for collectors of the seventeenth century. Hollar would have seen these simple, small-scale prints as an opportunity to take advantage of that market, and he produced several groups of costume prints in the 1630s and 1640s.
He began self-publishing "Aula Veneris" in 1643 after his primary patron in London, Thomas Howard, the Earl of Arundel, left for Austria preceding the English Civil War. The series began under the title Theatrum Mulierum (The Theater of Women) before being retitled after the artist emigrated to Antwerp. Though the plates would suggest a desire to create an encyclopedic grouping of women's costume, he appeared to have planned for the series to be open-ended: the prints were likely sold individually rather than in bound books or portfolios, as no collection of them today has the same combination. Nonetheless, this allowed the series the flexibility to be amended with new additions in later decades, adding to its international breadth.
Source: Hughes, Heather. "Luxury and Morality: Fashioning Englishness in Seventeenth-Century Costume Prints," in 'Clothing As Culture: Delineating National Character In Costume Prints,' c. 1600-1650. PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2017.