Jacques Callot


Quick Reference

(b Nancy, Mar./Aug. 1592; d Nancy, 25 Mar. 1635).

French etcher and draughtsman. He spent most of his life in Nancy (at this time capital of the independent Duchy of Lorraine), but in his early career he worked in Italy, c.1611–21, initially in Rome but principally in Florence. His main patron there was Grand Duke Cosimo II de' Medici; it was his premature death in 1621 that led Callot to return to Nancy. Cosimo was a great lover of festivities, and Callot's work for him included scenes of fêtes and ceremonies, some of them large plates with scores of figures. Among his numerous other subjects were beggars and characters from the commedia dell'arte. He combined the sense of fantasy and the sophisticated exaggerations of late Mannerism with witty and acute observation of real life to create a highly distinctive style. In some respects he comes close to Bellange, also active in Nancy, but Callot was more realistic. After his return to Lorraine he concentrated on religious subjects and his output became more serious in tone. His most famous work is the series of eighteen etchings entitled Les Misères et les malheurs de la guerre, published in 1633, which harrowingly depict the atrocities of the Thirty Years War (in the year in which they were published Lorraine was invaded by France). They were admired by Goya and influenced his treatment of barbarity in his Disasters of War prints. Callot's output was prodigious: more than a thousand etchings and more than a thousand drawings by him are extant. He was one of the greatest of all etchers and one of the first major creative artists to work exclusively in the graphic arts.

Subjects: Art.

Reference entries