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The Firing Squad

Originally entitled La Vie des soldats (The Lives of Soldiers), Callot’s eighteen plates (Eskenazi Museum of Art 72.87.1A–.1R) comprise a general review of military life, no doubt based on Callot’s many firsthand experiences. Although they do not portray specific military episodes, the etchings are a mixture of frank reportage and great human insight, revealing war as an inevitable aspect of life, and the soldier as both the creator and the victim of violence.

Generally fighting as foreign mercenaries, the soldiers murdered, raped, and looted, leaving a starving and disease-ridden local populace in their wake. Callot’s first few plates depict soldiers plundering, while later episodes relate the revenge of civilians as well as the punishment meted out to soldiers by the military itself. Titled The Miseries and Misfortunes of War when they were finally published, the prints in the second state were accompanied by the captions composed by the Abbe Michel de Marolles (a notable collector of prints). Callot’s portrayals stand as a milestone in the history of the development of military themes. His work neither glorified nor idealized war, presenting instead a straightforward account of its gruesome realities.

Jacques Callot
French, 1592–1635
The Firing Squad, Plate 12 from The Miseries and Misfortunes of War
1633
Etching on paper
Image/plate: 2 13/16 x 7 ¼ in. (7.1 x 18.4 cm); sheet: 5 1/8 x 8 13/16 in. (12.0 x 22.4 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art 72.87.1L