The 17th century as seen by Jacques Callot
The artist-printmaker Jacques Callot (1592-1635) is not well known among the general public, even though he was one of the most important engravers of his day and of fundamental importance to the development of the technical and aesthetic potential of printmaking. He did more than 2000 drawings and about 1400 prints, which were frequently reissued and copied both during his lifetime and after his death. His renowned series on beggars and the miseries of war inspired such major artists as Rembrandt and Goya. Prints by and after Jacques Callot are now held in print rooms all over Europe. The Print Room at the Groeninge Museum in Bruges has an original drawing and a sizeable collection of prints by this artist. A selection of these works is shown here.
This web publication is inspired by the exhibition The 17th century as seen by Jacques Callot that was held at the Arents House (Groeninge Museum, Bruges) in the spring of 2013.
Jacques Callot was born in Nancy in 1592, the son of a herald to Charles III, the Duke of Lorraine. After his initial education in his native city, he soon left for Italy to complete his training. After a short stay in Rome he settled in Florence, where he worked in the Uffizi on commission to the influential Medici family. He published several series and individual prints, illustrating the public festivities and theatre productions sponsored by the court. When his patron, Cosimo de Medici II, died in 1621, Callot returned to Nancy. There too he worked mainly on commission, for both the ducal court and religious orders. He engraved several of the drawings he had made in Florence and did lots of religious prints, including his greatest masterpiece, The Temptation of St Anthony. In 1635 Callot died of a stomach complaint.
Callot’s prints combine keen observation of reality with an astonishing imagination. In his sizeable print oeuvre he illustrated the most varied aspects of life in early 17th-century society. This selection of about 80 prints grouped into five themes shows the wide variety of his work. They offer a wonderful insight into the artist’s world. A last section is devoted to Stefano Della Bella (1610-1664), an Italian artist of a later generation whose career was comparable to that of Callot. His prints are also clearly influenced by his predecessor. In this exhibition the museum unveils a surprising and previously unknown part of its collection.
Callot’s prints combine keen observation of reality with an astonishing imagination. In his sizeable print oeuvre he illustrated the most varied aspects of life in early 17th-century society. This selection of about 80 prints grouped into five themes shows the wide variety of his work. They offer a wonderful insight into the artist’s world.