Callot, Jacques, 1592-1635Alternative names
French painter and engraver portraying war scenes, genre sketches, dwarf performers, comedians (zanies) and religious themes.
From the description of Triumph of the Virgin or Small Thesis : frontispiece , 1625. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 754863486
French painter and engraver portraying war scenes, genre sketches, dwarf performers, comedians (zanies) and religious scenes.
From the description of Siege of St.-Martin-de-Ré : etching. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 754863483
Jacques Callot was born in 1592 in Nancy, the capital of the duchy of Lorraine. His parents were part of the court circle, his father being herald-at-arms to the Duke of Lorraine and a member of the Duke's bodyguard of archers. When Charles III died in 1608, Callot's father was placed in charge of the obsequies, thus presaging Callot's own royal activities later in life. Callot received his first instruction from Claude Henriet, the court painter, in 1606. He was then taught by Demenge Crocq, a silversmith and engraver who also made ornamental designs on paper. According to André Félibien's Entretiens sur la vie et sur les ouvrages des plus excellents peintres anciens et modernes (1666), Callot learned his trade in Remigio Cantagallina's workshop in Florence after running away to Italy with a band of Bohemian gypsies.
More reliable sources record Callot arriving in Rome in 1609 in the company of a Lorraine diplomat. He spent three years as an apprentice in the workshop of Philippe Thomassin (1588-1660), an engraver and publisher of reproductive prints. He also became familiar with the studios of Francesco Villamena (1566-1626) and Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630). Tempesta, a Florentine, took Callot to Florence in 1612 to assist with etching the funeral book of Margherita of Austria, the Queen of Spain; Callot's first published etchings were illustrations for this book. He remained in Florence afterward and entered the service of the Medici in 1614. He made engravings of the life of Ferdinand de Medici and etchings after courtly festivals and theatrical productions, many designed by Giulio Parigi.
After Cosimo II de Medici died prematurely in 1621, Callot returned to Nancy with Charles IV of Lorraine. While in Nancy, Charles commissioned him to organize, design, and make etchings after a festival, the Combat à la Barrière; Infante Isabella of the Netherlands commissioned him to etch a large view of the Siege of Breda; and Louis XIII commissioned him to etch plates of other sieges. In 1629 and again in 1630 and 1631, Callot spent a few months in Paris. He remained in Nancy, where he suffered illness for the last five years of his life and died in 1635.
Callot began his career as an engraver, learning the more formal and meticulous intaglio practice. When he became an etcher, his innovations added durability and improved capacity for variety to etching's established virtues of speed and flexibility. Callot executed over 1400 prints--single prints, suites, and book illustrations--in a lifetime of forty-three years. Many of his plates were published and subsequently owned by his childhood friend from Nancy, Israël Henriet (ca. 1590-1661), who established himself as a printmaker, seller, and publisher in Paris. Many prints were taken from his plates after his death (over 300 copper plates remain at the Musée Historique Lorrain in Nancy), and he has continued to be popular and very influential for etchers and other artists.
In 1617 Callot first experimented with the hard, quick-drying varnish of mastic and linseed oil used by Florentine makers of stringed instruments. This hard etching ground did not chip off the plate or cause pitting and foul biting, as was common with the soft ground commonly used for etching until that time. Without the likelihood of accidental damage to the plate, the hard ground expanded the possibilities of repeated biting, a practice that Callot employed to effectively create light and space, although he did not discover it. The hard ground also provided a better surface for the manipulation of metal tools, another area of Callot's innovations. He invented the échoppe, a steel cylinder cut at a slant at one end, larger than the usual etching needle and more like the tools used by wood engravers. The échoppe, which he used in many sizes, allowed him to vary the width of his lines, swelling and diminishing them as engravers did, to suggest the volume of forms and vigorous physical movement. Abraham Bosse's 1645 treatise, Traicté des manieres de graver en taille dovce svr l'airin par le moyen des eaux fortes, & des vernix durs & mols, publicized Callot's technical accomplishments and spread their use.
The principal aspects of Callot's artistic personality are his technical virtuosity, his draftsmanship, and his distinctive use of a miniature format. His ambitious, lively compositions, usually of contemporary life or religious history, create a sense of distance with their progression from a dark foreground to a light background and a sense of spaciousness with their small figures in large spaces, whether outdoors or on a stage. Callot “skillful[ly] blend[s] acute visual observation with a penchant for stylish exaggeration” (Russell), combining particularities and stereotypes and displaying his virtuosity by convincingly depicting crowds and immense spaces within the confines of small prints. Callot was a methodical artist who made many preparatory drawings, both large compositions and detailed studies, and made few changes in images on the plate. He studied life around him at court, in the city, in fields, military camps, on the roads, and in the streets and combined this knowledge with a fertile imagination and a thoughtful sense of composition.
The major themes of Callot's prints are religion, theater, war, and landscape. Religious works formed the largest category of his oeuvre throughout his career and clearly promoted Catholic Counter-Reformation subjects such as the Virgin, the saints, and martyrs. He received commissions from individuals and from Catholic orders and created works on his own initiative. Callot spent a great deal of time making official visual records of court festivals, theatrical performances, and funerals, in addition to more fanciful portrayals of commedia dell'arte characters. War was ever-present in seventeenth-century Europe; and Callot depicted all aspects of it, from sieges and battles to preparations and depredations. Landscape is a common element in these works, though he made few scenes of pure landscape. His landscapes--both fantasies and documentary images--are often peopled with picaresque and picturesque poor people: beggars, gypsies, peasants, and soldiers. Callot's many allegorical and emblematic images, often religious and in large sets, contribute significantly to that Baroque genre. In addition, he engraved a few portraits and, very early in his career, rendered some copies of paintings.
From the guide to the Jacques Callot etchings, ca. 1615-1635, (Getty Research Institute)
|Place Name||Admin Code||Country|
|Italy—Social life and customs—17th century|
|Florence (Italy)—Court and courtiers|
|Lorraine (France)—Court and courtiers—Early works to 1800|
|Île de Ré|
|Art and state--Italy|
|Art and state--Italy--Florence--History--17th century|
|Art--Political aspects--France--17th century|
|Theater--France--Early works to 1800|
|Clothing and dress--History--17th century|
|Festivals--France--Early works to 1800|
|Art and state--France--History--17th century|
|Artists, French--17th century--Pictorial works|