Hollar's visit to Tangier in 1669-70 produced his last great series of watercolour drawings and etchings. Tangier became an English possession in 1661 as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza when she married King Charles II. England's hold on its new possession was tenuous. However Pepys who was Treasurer of the Tangier Commission, said in May 1667 of a proposal to reinforce the garrison, 'I think [it] will signify as much good as everything else that hath been done about the place: which is, none at all!'. In 1669, after petitioning the King, Hollar accompanied Lord Howard (grandson of Hollar's first English patron, Lord Arundel) on a special mission to Morocco in order to make an accurate survey of the settlement, receiving £100 in payment. The mission arrived at Tangier in August 1669 and returned to England in December 1670, having failed to protect Tangier against the incursions of El Rashid II, the 'great Tafiletta'; on their way home the convoy was attacked by 'Turkish' pirates. The territory was finally abandoned in 1684. (See E.M.G. Routh, Tangier: England's Lost Atlantic Outpost 1661-1684, London, 1912, pp. 99-112).
The expedition led to two series of finished works by Hollar. A set of seven watercolours in the British Museum was presented by Sir Hans Sloane in 1753 (E. Croft-Murray and P. Hulton, Catalogue of British Drawings, vol. I, London, 1960, pp. 359-65, among nos. 28-41, several illustrated; for colour illustrations of two examples see L. Stainton and C. White, Drawing in England from Hilliard to Hogarth, exhibition catalogue, London, British Museum, 1987, pp. 108-9, nos. 72 and 73). These are fully completed in watercolour and are distinguished by ornately inscribed titles and annotated lists of the main features shown. The second series was the set of etchings by Hollar after his own drawings published by John Overton in 1673. The illustrated title page is inscribed 'Divers prospects in and about Tangier, Exactly delineated by W. Hollar; his May:ties designer Ao 1669, and by him afterwards to satisfie the curious, etshd in Copper, And are to be sold by John Overton at the White Horse, without Newgate, London, 1673' (see J. Burgers, Wenceslaus Hollar: Seventeenth-Century Prints from the Museum-Boymans-Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, exhibition catalogue, Art Services International, Alexandria, Virginia, 1994, p. 200, no. 133, illustrated). This contains twelve views in and around Tangier, some based on the finished watercolours in the British Museum. Hollar also etched three subjects in a wider format, and had already etched a 'MAPP of the CITY of TANGIER' in 1664 after a drawing by Jonas Moore. (For the etchings see G. Parthey, Kurzes Verzeichniss der Hollar'shen Kupferstick, Berlin, 1853, and R. Pennington, Descriptive Catalogue of the Etched Works of Wenceslaus Hollar 1607-1677, Cambridge, 1989, pp. 205-8, nos. 1187-1203.) Hollar also etched a head and shoulders portrait of 'El Rasheed', published 1670 (Parthey and Pennington no. 1472; illustrated Springell, op. cit., p. 72, fig. 29).
There is also a group of less highly finished drawings, some with watercolour, some without, and some forming the basis for the finished watercolours and prints. Six, originally in the collection of Lt.-Col. William Skinner, RE, were given by his grandson to the War Office and passed to the British Museum, Department of Manuscripts, in 1887; they were transferred to the Department of Prints and Drawings in 1932 (see Croft-Murray and Hulton, loc. cit., some illustrated). One example is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and fifteen further examples belonged to Sir Bruce Ingram, including this work and a further six first described and illustrated by Springell (loc. cit.); the others are listed in F.C. Sprinzel (the same author), Hollars Handzeichnungen, Vienna, 1938.
The recto of the present drawing, drawn in pencil and only partly gone over in pen and ink, all presumably done while Hollar was in Tangier in 1669-70, shows the town in the foreground and the inner fort beyond. Peterborough Tower is on the left, the Governor's House in the centre, and York Castle on the right. When Hollar came to etch this subject he divided it into two at the break in the wall between the Governor's House and York Castle. The left-hand etching is entitled 'Prospect of ye Inner Part of Tangier with the Upper Castle, from the South-East' (P. 1192, see Burgers, op. cit., p. 201, no. 134, illustrated); the foreground has been enlarged to accommodate the raising of the horizon, and the coast of 'Spaine' can be seen on the far right. The right-hand part of the composition was etched as 'The lower Inner part of Tangier with Yorke Castle, etc. from South East' (P 1195). The subject was not repeated among the finished watercolours, but can be compared with the more distant 'Prospect of TANGIER from the Land it being the South-West side' (BM 5214-19; Croft-Murray and Hulton 28, illustrated pl. 158a), there is an unfinished version from the Skinner Collection (BM 1932-11-3-5; Croft-Murray and Hulton 29, illustrated 158b).
The verso, hitherto unrecorded, looks at first sight to be a view from one of the towers of the walls that encircled Tangier; see for instance 'A Prospect ... from Peterborough Tower' (BM 5214-20; Croft-Murray and Hulton 31, illustrated pl. 1606). However no tower of such a basic rectilinear form can be seen in Hollar's various depictions of Tangier and it seems almost certain that what is shown in the foreground is the Bowling Green. This can be seen in three of Hollar's more finished works though from a different angle: the finished watercolour of 'A Prospect of the Land and Fields, within ye line of Communication before Tangier...' (BM 5214-20; Croft-Murray and Hulton 31; illustrated in colour, Stainton and White, op. cit., pp. 108-9, no. 73), the less finished drawing of 'Tangier from the Land it being the South Side' (BM 1932-11-3-5; Croft-Murray and Hulton 30, pl. 159a) and the engraving of 1673, 'Prospect of ye bowling green at Whitehall by Tangier' (Parthey 1198, illustrated). The engraving is inscribed '2' to indicate the Bowling Green; perhaps it is no coincidence that the same number is inscribed on what is taken to be the Bowling Green in our drawing. The block-like building known as Whitehall was at the side of the Bowling Green, both lying below the Peterborough Tower, and there were a number of small isolated forts like that shown on the left, perhaps Norwood Fort, in the open country beyond. The presence of a bowling green, and the altogether English names of the various features in and around Tangier (including an outpost called Whitby) shows how eager the occupying power was to evoke the home country.
The particular form of the Arms of Amsterdam shown in the watermark suggests not a Dutch but a French paper by Pierre Bernard of the 1660s (information kindly supplied by Peter Bower).
According to Jacqueline Burgers 'This is the last series of quality that Hollar did' before his death (J. Burgers, op. cit., p. 21). F.C. Springell writes that 'It seems remarkable that an artist of [Hollar's] advanced age - he was in his late '60s - had not yet lost his ability for keen and exact observation, for which he was famous in his lifetime' (Springell, op. cit., p. 74).