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Jacques Callot
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One of the greatest printmakers of the 17th century, Jacques Callot created over 1400 prints and over 2000 drawings depicting a wide range of subjects, including the Florentine theater, religious subjects, landscapes, military battles and the miseries of war. An innovative printmaker, he invented a new type of etching ground, was one of the first etchers to use the technique of repeated biting, and sometimes combined engraving with etching. Born probably between March and August of 1592 in Nancy, in the then-independent Duchy of Lorraine, Callot’s father was an officer of heraldry in the court of Charles III, Duke of Lorraine (1543-1608). He became apprenticed to a goldsmith in January 1607, and his earliest print, a portrait of Charles III (Lieure 1), was created that year. Callot left Nancy for Rome as a teenager, probably in 1608. He entered the studio of Philippe Thomassin (1562-1622), a French engraver then working in Rome, where he made a number of reproductive engravings. In the fall of 1611, Thomassin’s friend Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630) was engaged by the Medici court to make drawings and prints celebrating the life of and the memorial service for the recently deceased Margaret of Austria (1584-1611), Queen of Spain. Tempesta hired Callot to make 15 etchings about her life for a commemorative book after designs by Tempesta (L. 55-69), in addition to 11 more made by Tempesta and his studio. Callot also etched three plates of the funeral decorations after drawings by Guilio Parigi (1571-1635), the Florentine artist and architect in charge of the ceremonies (L. 52-54). Published in 1612, this work led to Callot’s employment by the Medici court, a commission for engravings on the life of Ferdinando de’ Medici (1549-1609) and space in the Uffizi Palace to do the work, all recorded in 1614. During his years in Florence Callot created prints depicting outdoor festivals, pageants, the theater, naval battles, and religious scenes, some individual prints, some prints in series and book illustrations. In 1620 he etched his one of his greatest prints, The Fair at Impruneta (L. 361), featuring some 1,300 people and animals. After Grand Duke Cosimo died in 1621, the Medici court ended the patronage of Callot and other artists and Callot returned to Nancy. Callot made prints after drawings he brought with him, such as a series of 21 prints depicting hunchbacked dwarfs (the Gobbi, L 279, 407-426), 25 plates of Beggars (L. 479-503) and a set of commedia dell’arte performers (the Balli di Sfessania, L. 379-402). Callot began to receive support from the Duke of Lorraine in 1623, and continued to enjoy the patronage of the Duke, his successors, other aristocrats and various religious orders for the rest of his short life. He married Catherine Kuttinger later that year and purchased a house in Nancy. Recalling similar festivals in Florence, Callot organized a festival and mock combat staged in Nancy’s ducal palace that he depicted in Combat à la Barriere (L. 584) and in additional etchings included in a book depicting the festival. The book was sent to various European courts, including that of the Infanta Isabella (1566-1633) in Brussels, who governed the Spanish Netherlands. She commissioned Callot to etch The Siege of Breda (L. 593), created on six copper plates. Callot went to The Netherlands to make sketches of Breda. He was assisted in his task by Spanish military engineers, who gave him maps of the area and plans of the siege. Before returning home, Callot visited his friend Cornelius van Poelenburgh (1594/5-1667) in Utrecht in Holland, whom he had known in Florence. While there Callot apparently came in contact with the Utrecht Caravaggisti, whose use of chiarascuro appeared in some of Callot’s etchings. Callot returned to Nancy, where he etched the plates for The Siege of Breda and continued to make prints. During a visit to Paris in 1629 Callot made sketches that led to two well-known prints, his View of the Louvre (L. 667) and View of the Pont-Neuf (L. 668). He made another trip to Paris soon thereafter to work on two large prints commissioned by King Louis XIII (1601-1643), both commemorating military victories, The Siege of the Citadel of Saint Martin on the Isle of Ré (L. 654) and The Siege of La Rochelle (L. 655). Each work required six copper plates. From 1631 until he died in 1635, Callot etched over 580 plates on religious themes. His famous set of 18 prints, The Miseries and Misfortunes of War (L. 1339-1356) was published in 1633. After suffering a long illness, Callot died on March 24, 1635. (TNB 5/2013) Selected bibliography: Bechtel, Edwin deT. Jacques Callot. New York: George Braziller, 1955. Russell, H. Diane, ed. Jacques Callot; Prints and Related Drawings. Exhibition catalog. Washington: National Gallery of Art, 1975.