Jun 222014

Hanging Jacques CaillotThe Hanging

This has nothing to do with the mood I’m in, no. Well, you can decide for yourselves. I’ve been uploading images for the wonderful new Genese Grill essay (on Primitivism) in the July issue, and what with one thing and another (insane art, degenerate art, the news from Iraq, etc.), I was reminded of Jacques Callot’s etchings, his series on the Miseries of  War (1633). Part of this comes from the fact that I am doing another interview (I am being interviewed), and, yet again, I have been asked to explain the violence in my stories and novels. The perennial question, right next to why there is so much sex in what I write. I don’t know! But I love these images. They delight me. Some deep, deep irony here about the human race, that noble, rational species created in God’s image. (Note the upside-down man cooking over the fire in the farmhouse scene, or the hanging corpse way at the top of a very tall tree in the peasant scene.) And I suppose it’s also true that there is hardly a work of art that depicts the gruesome quality of war with as much cynical detail. Makes you wonder why we keep doing this, what strange martial avidity compels us.

Click the images to make them bigger.


Callot The Stake 1633The Stake

Callot The WheelThe Wheel

Callot The StrappadoThe Strappado

Callot The Firing SquadThe Firing Squad

Callot Plundering a Large FarmhousePlundering a Large Farmhouse

Callot Plundering and Burning a VillagePlundering and Burning a Village

Callot The Peasants Avenge ThemselvesThe Peasants Avenge Themselves

Caillot titleJacques Callot Title Page (1633)

  5 Responses to “A Note on Jacques Callot & the Miseries of War”

  1. God, what function do you suppose the wheel served? I shudder to think of it. After this, you definitely ought to visit the annals of the Old Bailey–the London court. It will feed that mood of yours.

    • I think the wheel was a device to make it easier to break the long bones of the arms and legs. It doesn’t seem very efficient but it has a certain theatricality.

      • Shudder the thought. That said, one of my favorite movies (despite the revelation of Mel Gibson’s foul prejudices) is Braveheart. The evisceration scene is more than memorable.

  2. Just read in Thoreau’s journals, “I have a deep sympathy with war, it so apes the gait and bearing of the soul”.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.