CALLOT, JACQUES (1592–1635), French engraver, was born at Nancy in Lorraine, where his father, Jean Callot, was a herald-at-arms. He early discovered a very strong predilection for art, and at the age of twelve quitted home without his father’s consent, and set out for Rome where he intended to prosecute his studies. Being utterly destitute of funds he joined a troop of Bohemians, and arrived in their company at Florence. In this city he had the good fortune to attract the notice of a gentleman of the court, who supplied him with the means of study; but he removed in a short time to Rome, where, however, he was recognized by some relatives, who immediately compelled him to return home. Two years after this, and when only fourteen years old, he again left France contrary to the wishes of his friends, and reached Turin before he was overtaken by his elder brother, who had been despatched in quest of him. As his enthusiasm for art remained undiminished after these disappointments, he was at last allowed to accompany the duke of Lorraine’s envoy to the papal court. His first care was to study the art of design, of which in a short time he became a perfect master. Philip Thomasin instructed him in the use of the graver, which, however, he ultimately abandoned, substituting the point as better adapted for his purposes. From Rome he went to Florence, where he remained till the death of Cosimo II., the Maecenas of these times. On returning to his native country he was warmly received by the then duke of Lorraine, who admired and encouraged him. As his fame was now spread abroad in various countries of Europe, many distinguished persons gave him commissions to execute. By the Infanta Isabella, sovereign of the Low Countries, he was commissioned to engrave a design of the siege of Breda; and at the request of Louis XIII. he designed the siege of Rochelle and the attack on the Isle of Ré. When, however, in 1631 he was desired by that monarch to execute an engraving of the siege of Nancy, which he had just taken, Callot refused, saying, “I would rather cut off my thumb than do anything against the honour of my prince and of my country”; to which Louis replied that the duke of Lorraine was happy in possessing such subjects as Callot. Shortly after this he returned to his native place, from which the king failed to allure him with the offer of a handsome pension. He engraved in all about 1600 pieces, the best of which are those executed in aquafortis. No one ever possessed in a higher degree the talent for grouping a large number of figures in a small space, and of representing with two or three bold strokes the expression, action and peculiar features of each individual. Freedom, variety and naïveté characterize all his pieces. His Fairs, his Miseries of War, his Sieges, his Temptation of St Anthony and his Conversion of St Paul are the best-known of his plates.
See also Edouard Meaume, Recherches sur la vie de Jacques Callot (1860).