|Method||Copper engraving and etching|
|Artist||Pierre Picault after Jacques Callot|
|Published||Iaques Callot invenit. Petrus Picault Blesensis sculpsit. A Paris chez F. Chereau rue St. Jacques aux deux pilliers d'or. [Paris, c. 1718]|
|Dimensions||Image 460 x 680 mm, Plate 512 x 700 mm|
A very large, impressive, and fascinating depiction of the Temptation of Saint Anthony, engraved by Picault after the famous 1635 etching by Jacques Callot. The scene is a veritable phantasmagoria, with hundreds of arresting details both humorous and horrific. The massive figure of Satan dominates the scene, exploding across the sky like a giant simian-avian hybrid. His leg is chained, no doubt keeping him in the Pit above which he rises. His bearded and heavily eyebrowed face gleams with wickedness, and his jaws disgorge a swarm of demonic imps, which flit above the scene accosting each other, and the hapless Saint Anthony. The Hallow himself, dragged from his cave, can be seen in the bottom right corner, tormented and beaten by various devils as he raises the Holy Cross. The Satanic retinue that surrounds him is of form and action of the most diverse and perverse. Winged sprites with arrows, spears, and barbs violate their fellows in all imaginable ways, while others fling fire at the ruinous structures they inhabit. Figures part animal and part machine belch weapons of war, serpents, and brimstone, while others play discordant music on instruments blown by both head and tail.
The Temptation of Saint Anthony is one of the most well represented devotional scenes in the history of Western art, and a particularly popular subject in print making. Saint Anthony (AD 251-356) was a Christian monk, born in the Hellenised Egyptian village of Coma. He is often referred to as the 'first monk' as tradition holds him to have been the first saint to lead an ascetic life in the wilderness. According to Athanasius of Alexandria, the main source responsible for popularising St Anthony's life and deeds, the saint experienced a number of apocalyptic visions while residing as a hermit in the Eastern Desert. Because of the fantastical elements of Anthony's visions, the 'Temptation' became an excellent outlet for an artist's inventiveness and imagination. Some of the most famous examples are the woodcuts of Durer, Lucas Cranach, and Heinrich Aldegrever, and their legacy can clearly be seen in some of the more esoteric works of artists such as Hieronymus Bosch, Breughel, Callot, and Hieronymus Cock.
The publication date of this print is somewhat contested. The engraver, Picault, died in 1711, which places the engraving of the plate in the first decade of the 18th century. However the publisher, François Chéreau, did not start publishing from the address '...aux deux pilliers d'or' until 1718. Chéreau's premature death in 1729 saw the continuation of his publishing business by his widow, Madame le Veuve Chéreau and his son, François II Chéreau.
Pierre Picault (1680-1711) was a French engraver and printmaker. Little is known of his life, aside from the fact that he was born in Blois and likely died in Paris. His works suggest some manner of cooperation, most likely as an apprentice, with the celebrated engraver Gerard Audran.
Jacques Callot (c.1592-1635) was a Lotharingian artist, draughtsman, and engraver, and one of the most significant Old Master printmakers. Born in Nancy, after training as a goldsmith he travelled to Rome where he was taught engraving by Philippe Thomassin and etching by Antonio Tempesta. For much of his life, he lived in Florence, often producing works for the Medici Court. Callot's corpus of over 1400 works had a profound effect on printmaking across Europe, not only due to their treatment of genre scenes and domestic subjects, but also for his technical developments in etching. Among the most important of these was the introduction of the echoppe from engraving, the development of a new varnish-based ground to help reduce foul-biting, and the extensive use of 'stopping-out' to achieve much greater subtleties in light and dark on his plates.
Condition: Clean, dark impression with full margins. Light toning to margins from previous mount. Minor creasing to inscription space. Small tear just into plate-mark along bottom margin.