Jacques Callot (French, 1592-1635)
Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, ca. 1630
Chalk on paper 8 1/16 in. x 13 3/4 in. (20.4 cm x 34.9 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, E. B. Crocker Collection1871.392
The artist Jacques Callot, a native of Lorraine in eastern France, was born to a court family in the town of Nancy. His sharp eye and love of the grotesque, as well as his many technical innovations, make him one of the most important and popular French printmakers of the 17th century. After early training in his native town, he traveled to Italy, reportedly in the company of vagrants. Once he arrived in Rome, he soon met the French engraver Philippe Thomassin. However, it was in Florence, where Callot arrived in 1612, that he received his most thorough training, working as an etcher under Remigio Cantagallina and Antonio Tempesta. Commissions from the Medici court followed, allowing him to remain in the city for the next nine years. Upon the death of the grand duke Cosimo II, he returned to Nancy, where he remained until his death. In later years, his fame as a printmaker brought him commissions from courts throughout Europe.
This drawing is preparatory to Callot’s print of the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. The emperor Diocletian condemned the Christian guard to be shot with arrows because he would not recant his faith, but he miraculously survived. In accordance with many of his other prints, the artist has placed the main subject in the background, so that the eye travels through the crowds of archers and soldiers, monuments and rocks, before reaching the saint awaiting his destiny at left.