The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian

Jacques Callot (French, 1592 – 1635)
Mat : 16 x 20 in. (40.64 x 50.8 cm)
Plate : 6 1/2 x 12 3/4 in. (16.51 x 32.38 cm)
Sheet : 7 3/4 x 13 3/4 in. (19.68 x 34.92 cm)
Credit Line
Hope College Collection
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Born in Nancy, France in 1592, Jacques Callot's reputation was established when he was appointed to serve as a court artist for Duke Charles III of Lorraine. After the death of Charles III, Callot left for Rome in the winter of 1608-1609 and remained there for three years. While in Italy, Callot made two inventions crucial to the history of printmaking. First, Callot designed a new kind of burin, called an eschoppé, which allowed the artist to hold the tool like a pen while creating the type of swelling lines that are usually associated with engravings. Second, Callot also improved the recipe for the hard ground coating on an etching plate, which reduced the chances of the plate being accidentally spoiled when exposed to acid. Callot returned to Lorraine in 1621 and resumed his career in France. The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian dates to this later phase of Callot’s career. The composition features buildings, ruins, people, horses, and vegetation organized into two distinct groupings on either side of the plate. Though dwarfed by the space around him, St. Sebastien occupies the print's center and is distinguishable by the faint lines that outline his form and the slivers of arrows that impale him. No doubt influenced by his years in Italy, Callot includes Roman ruins that reflect a growing interest in classical antiquity. Callot etched The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian during a time when France was going through a period of Catholic renewal following the Council of Trent. This period of reform is marked by the Catholic Church’s affirmation of saints and other religious imagery following the Protestant Reformation of the early 16th century. [Brianne Munch 2018]

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