Single sheet, float mounted and framed (sheet size: 6 5/8 x 4 ½ inches; framed size: 11 ¾ x 9 ½ inches). Extremely fine etching of the Martyrs of Japan, with faint but visible thread lines and a watermark of an anchor, signed and identified within the plate.
Provenance: With the collector's mark of Robert Hartshorne (d. 1945) on the verso (Lugt 2215b), his sale, October 1945, Parke-Bernet.
First edition, first state (of 2). L. 594. M. 155. A strong impression of Callot's famous depiction of the 26 Christian martyrs of Japan, produced on the occasion of their beatification. The martyrs are displayed on crosses, their sides pierced by a lance. In the foreground on the left is a man on a horse; to the right there are soldiers sitting in the shade. In the sky, cherubim are guided by St. John the Baptist, preparing palms and crows for the martyrs. In the left corner within the plate it is signed "Callot fec." Along the bottom margin it reads, "Le Pourtraict des premier 23 Martire mis en Croix par la predicaon. de la S. foy au Giappon | soubs l'Empe Taicosam en la Cité de Mongasachi, de lordre des freres mineurs Observantin de S. Francois."
"…[Emperor] Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-90) who had unified the country [Japan] in 1587, had suddenly issued an order to expel all foreign missionaries. Because Hideyoshi formerly had shown a favorable attitude towards the Kirishitan [Japanese Christian converts], this turn in policy after he had brought the country under a unified regime came like a bolt out of the blue. The town of Nagasaki was confiscated and put under the government's direct control. The expulsion order was not strictly followed, however, it forced the missionaries to avoid activities that might catch the public eye…
"In 1593 the Governor of the Philippines sent a group with the Franciscan friar Pedro Baptista (1545-97) as ambassadors to Japan. They met with Hideyoshi and received permission to build a monastery in Kyoto, while they were in Japan. While he was negotiating, Baptista was busy doing missionary work claiming that the expulsion order was issued against the Society of Jesus and, therefore, did not concern the Franciscan Order. At this time the Pope in Rome acknowledged the exclusive right of the Society of Jesus to do mission work in Japan. As a consequence, a confrontation began between the Society of Jesus that was under the patronage of the Portuguese monarch and the Franciscans and other mendicant orders who were under the patronage of the Spanish monarch.
"Just at that time, in 1596, the Spanish ship San Felipe on a voyage from Manila to Mexico encountered a typhoon and became stranded at Tosa, the island of Shikoku. Hideyoshi, in need of resources for his Korean adventure, seized the rich cargo of the San Felipe. However, seizure of the ship's cargo was unlawful in terms of the Japan-Spain friendship treaty concluded between Hideyoshi and Baptista. In order to turn it into a lawful action Hideyoshi renewed his order to expel the foreign missionaries in 1587 and ordered that the leaders of the Kirishitan in Kyoto and Osaka be executed.
"As a consequence of this, six priests and brothers, including Baptista, together with fourteen of their helpers, were arrested in Kyoto. In Osaka three members of the Society of Jesus were arrested, and this brought the total number of those arrested to twenty-four. They had their ears cut off and were sent off to Nagasaki after they had been paraded through the streets of Kyoto, Osaka, and Sakai as a warning. On their way there they were joined by two more. They were all crucified at Nishizaka in Nagasaki, on 5 February 1597. This is known as the martyrdom of the twenty-six Japanese Saints" (Mullins, ed., pp. 10-11).
Callot "was one of the first great artists to practice the graphic arts exclusively. His innovative series of prints documenting the horrors of war greatly influenced the socially conscious artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.
"Callot's career was divided into an Italian period (c. 1609-21) and a Lorraine (France) period (from 1621 until his death). He learned the technique of engraving under Philippe Thomassin in Rome. About 1612 he went to Florence. At that time Medici patronage expended itself almost exclusively in feste, quasi-dramatic pageants, sometimes dealing in allegorical subjects, and Callot was employed to make pictorial records of these mannered, sophisticated entertainments. He succeeded in evolving a naturalistic style while preserving the artificiality of the occasion, organizing a composition as if it were a stage setting and reducing the figures to a tiny scale, each one indicated by the fewest possible strokes. This required a very fine etching technique. His breadth of observation, his lively figure style, and his skill in assembling a large, jostling crowd secured for his etchings a lasting popular influence all over Europe.
"Callot also had a genius for caricature and the grotesque. His series of plates of single or dual figures-for example, the Balli di Sfessania ("Dance of Sfessania"), the Caprices of Various Figures, and the Hunchbacks-are witty and picturesque and show a rare eye for factual detail.
"With a few exceptions, the subject matter of the etchings of the Lorraine period is less frivolous, and Callot was hardly employed at all by the court at Nancy. He illustrated sacred books, made a series of plates of the Apostles, and visited Paris to etch animated maps of the sieges of La Rochelle and the Île de Ré. In his last great series of etchings, the "small" (1632) and the "large" (1633) The Miseries and Misfortunes of War, he brought his documentary genius to bear on the atrocities of the Thirty Years' War. Callot is also well known for his landscape drawings in line and wash and for his quick figure studies in chalk" (Encyclopedia Brittanica). Lieure 594. Meaume 155. Mark R. Mullins, "Handbook of Christianity in Japan."