Life of the Virgin, Complete Set


Callot (1592-1635), Life of the Virgin, etchings, 1633, complete set of 13 plus the frontispiece, with the rare additional plate of the Annonciation. Reference: Lieure 1357-1370 (the set), 1371 (additional Annociation), in the second state (of 3), 1371 the second state (of 2), before the numbers were added in the third state. In good condition, 6 plates with margins, the rest trimmed near the platemark; small loss lower right of L 1369. Printed on old laid paper, average size 2 3/4 x 1 7/8 inches; 70 x 45 mm., archival matting.

Also, an impression of the rare Le Cult de Dieu, Lieure 570, only state, trimmed to the diagonals, is included with this set.

Provenance: Sotheby’s New York Old Master Prints Sale, 11/14/1981.

Very good to fine impressions of the second state of 3. The first state, before letters, is virtually unknown; in the third state (which is posthumous) numbers were added to the lower right.

Lieure considered this cycle Callot’s masterpiece of religious expression, and it is an aesthetic triumph as well. The series includes the traditional apochryphal scenes as well as those from the Gospels. The compositions are generally theatrical, often with strong figures in the foreground, with a larger cast in the middle ground, and an opening which creates space and depth. Some of the plates are particularly dramatic, such as the Burial of the Virgin, which takes place in a darkened grotto, and the Adoration of the Magi (with a boarded roof after Durer); the rare second Annunciation is a study in simplicity – a more beautiful version than the set’s version which is more flowery. All of these compositions would “work” in a larger scale.

Most of the plates show the name of Callot at bottom left and that of Israel (Henriet) at the lower right; the Flight into Egypt (L. 1366) does not have Callot’s name, and the Presentation (L. 1364) has neither name.