Callot, Jacques

Callot, Jacques

Callot, Jacques (zhäk kälōˈ), 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™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Callot, Jacques


Born in 1592 or 1593, in Nancy; died there Mar. 24, 1635. French engraver and graphic artist.

Beginning in 1608, Callot studied in Rome. In 1611 he began working in Florence, where he became a masterful etcher. In 1622 he returned to France. Callot’s etchings include large panoramic compositions (The Siege of Breda, 1627) and groups of small engravings (Capricci, 1617, 1623). In his work Callot reproduced reality with multiple images. He portrayed various, often bizarre, human types (the series The Beggars, 1622) and dramatically depicted contemporary events (the two series The Disasters of War, 1632-33). Callot also treated religious subjects (The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, 1632-33), mythological subjects (primarily in his early work), and theatrical themes (the series Balli, 1622). He also is well known for his landscapes. Each of his plates (with sharp spatial jumps from the foreground to the background) depicts several episodes and crowds of active figures.

In Callot’s work the realism of keenly observed and sharply delineated details combines with grotesque expressiveness, which includes fantastic elements, to form a whole. Callot used the technique of graduated biting, which gave him particular precision of drawing, flexibility and clearness of line, richness of shadows in the foreground, and subtlety and softness of tonal transitions.


Glikman, A. S. Zhak Kallo. Leningrad-Moscow, 1959.
Lieure, J. Jacques Callot, 5 vols. Paris, 1924-29.
Bechtel, E. de T. Jacques Callot. New York, 1955.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Mentioned in ?