Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Jacques Callot

Jacques Callot (c.1592-1635) was a baroque printmaker and draftsman from the Duchy of Lorraine (an independent state on the North-Eastern border with France). He is an important figure in the development of the old master print. He made over 1,400 brilliantly detailed etchings that chronicled the life of his period, featuring soldiers, clowns, drunkards, Gypsies, beggars, as well as court life.

Learn a bit more about his Balli di Sfessania series here.

I was first given a copy of these engravings about 11 years ago during a production of a play whose name I can no longer remember. I can remember, however, the feelings of inspiration and wonder upon examining the images. Barry Grantham uses one of the engravings (the topmost image above; of Scaramucia and Fricasso) as the inspiration for an exercise in his book Playing Commedia; A Training Guide to Commedia Techniques, a book that I look forward to discussing in a future post.

I think these postures are beautiful, grotesque, theatrical and great fuel for the imagination of the physical performer. But it must be remembered that these are an artist's rendition of a single moment captured in time. I have seen talented performers, new to Commedia, try and sustain some of the more athletic poses from the Callot for the entirety of a play. The more I study, teach and perform, the better I understand that the same dialectical line between tension and release must be reached for the performance to land clearly for the audience...this deserves its own post.

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