Jacques Callot

Callot, Jacques (zhäk kälōˈ) [key], 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).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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