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Daily Art Moment: Jacques Callot

For many artists, printmaking is the ideal medium in which to explore the mysterious, the unseen, and the unknowable. Demons and monsters hold a special appeal, as seen in this recent acquisition, an etching by Jaques Callot. This sheet depicts the legend of St. Anthony, an early Christian abbot who retreated to the Egyptian desert to meditate, but was repeatedly tempted by the Devil. The subject has long been a favorite of artists from medieval times to the present. Artists as diverse as Michelangelo and Salvador Dalí have taken up the challenge of depicting the evils that befell the pious saint. Callot was no exception, lavishing detail and imagination on the various winged demons and monsters torturing each other and tempting Anthony. The saint stands at the lower right, fending off five demons and a hellhound, his right foot already enchained (see detail). As a solitary figure fighting off a realm of demons, St. Anthony can be seen as a symbol for the common man in a world gone mad.

Mary Weaver Chapin, Curator of Prints and Drawings

Jacques Callot (French, 1592–1635). The Temptation of St. Anthony, 1635. Etching. Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Portland Fine Print Fair Fund, 2020.20.1