Jacques Callot

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About encyclopedia.com content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated


CALLOT, JACQUES (15921635), French (Lorrainese) draftsman and printmaker. Born in Nancy, son of a herald-at-arms to Charles III, duke of Lorraine, Callot studied with a little-known court painter, Claude II Henriet, and a goldsmith, Demange Crocq. He departed for Italy in 1608, and continued his studies in Rome with the well-known printmaker Philippe Thomassin. In 1614 Callot moved to Florence, where he became an artist at the Medici court under Grand Duke Cosimo II, and he remained there for seven years. While in Florence, he honed his skill at using methods of perspective, probably during his studies with Giulio Parigi, the court architect, engineer, and impresario. Callot established a reputation as an engraver through his many prints recording events at the ducal court (Catafalque of Emperor Matthias, 1619, and Soliman, 1620), and became known especially for his ability to represent vast scenes without sacrificing detail as in his Fair at Impruneta, 1620, which features more than a thousand active figures.

Callot returned to his native country in 1621, and in 1623 was appointed an artist to the court of Henri II, duke of Lorraine at the ducal capital of Nancy. Callot's later production included prints depicting genre scenes, religion (The Temptation of St. Anthony, 1635), and events at court (Combat at the Barrier, 1625, and the Parterre de Nancy, 1625). He also depicted the brutality of war in a series of etchings recording the horrors he witnessed during the Thirty Years' War (The Miseries of War, 1633), and in three vast multi-plate depictions of military sieges at Breda, The Netherlands, 1627, and at La Rochelle and nearby Saint-Martin-de-Ré, both 1630. However, despite his skill in seamlessly blending topographic precision with the more conventional genre of the battle scene, it is particularly noteworthyand perhaps a reflection of his patriotismthat he politely but defiantly declined Louis XIII's commission to depict the Siege of Nancy in 1633.

Callot was one of the most prolific, creative, and influential draftsmen and printmakers of the seventeenth century. He made more than 1,400 prints and developed technical innovations, such as hard-ground etching, that became standard procedure for all Western printmakers. During his time in Lorraine, Callot visited Paris often and established a relationship with printmaker and publisher Israël Henriet (c. 15901661), who was also the son of his first teacher. The younger Henriet obtained hundreds of Callot's copper plates through both inheritance and purchase. To satisfy the unceasing demand for Callot's work, Henriet continued publishing them for years after his friend's death. Callot was also renowned for his drawings, about two thousand of which have survived. These were often studies for his many prints, and they reveal his enormous power of invention, his love of detail and the grotesque, his brilliant contrasts of tone, and the confident, fluid, swelling, and tapering late-mannerist line that made them, and his more widely proliferated etchings, internationally famous.

See also Commedia dell'Arte ; Mannerism ; Prints and Popular Imagery ; Thirty Years' War (16181648) .


Lieure, Jules. Jacques Callot. 5 vols. Paris, 192427.

Meaume, Édouard. Recherches sur la vie et les ouvrages de Jacques Callot, suite au peintre-graveur de M. Robert-Dumesnil. 2 vols. Paris, 1860; Würzburg, 1924.

Musée historique lorrain. Jacques Calllot, 15921635. Exh. cat., Paulette Choné and Daniel Ternois, eds. Nancy, 1992.

National Gallery of Art. Jacques Callot: Prints and Related Drawings. Exh. cat. Texts by H. Diane Russell, Jeffrey Blanchard, and John Krill. Washington, D.C., 1975.

Ternois, Daniel. Jacques Callot: Catalogue complet de son oeuvre dessiné. Paris, 1962.

. Jacques Callot: Catalogue de son oeuvre dessiné, supplément (19621998). Paris, 1999.

Ternois, Daniel, ed. Jacques Callot (15921635): Actes du colloque, 1992. Paris and Nancy, 1993.

Alvin L. Clark, Jr.

views updated

Jacques Callot (zhäk kälō´), c.1592–1635, French etcher and engraver, b. Nancy. Callot was an influential innovator and a brilliant observer of his time. In 1612 he went to Florence where he learned to etch and where he developed and introduced the use of a hard varnish ground that allowed both greater flexibility and finesse. In the service of Cosimo II de' Medici, he created many works: the Capricci, small, vivacious figure groups; gay scenes of Medici court life; the vast Fair at Impruneta (1620); and sparkling illustrations of the theater, among them his Commedia dell'arte group, which was reproduced in his Balli (1621). On Cosimo's death in 1621, Callot returned to Nancy and, under the patronage of the ducal court, gained a considerable reputation. He became known for his fantasies, grotesques, beggars, and caricatures, then much in vogue. He was commissioned in 1627 by the Infanta Isabella of Brussels to engrave the siege of Breda, and by Louis XIII to etch the sieges of Rochelle and the island of Ré and a series, Views of Paris. Too independent for court favor and deeply affected by the scenes of carnage he had witnessed, he retired to Nancy, where he executed in 1633 his masterwork, the two series entitled Miseries of War. These studies of human brutality and suffering were the first dispassionate, unromanticized treatment of the horror of war. Callot produced nearly 1,500 plates and 2,000 drawings in a wide variety of styles and subjects. The grandeur and brilliance of his work profoundly influenced many major masters, including Rembrandt and Watteau. His technical innovations established important procedures for subsequent etchers.

See the complete illustrated catalog with the definitive study by J. Lieure (5 vol., 1924–29, in French); studies by E. Bechtel (1955) and Brown Univ. Art Dept. (1970).