This, the second Temptation of Saint Anthony, was Callot's last large plate; he first etched the subject in Florence in 1617 and had returned to it in 1634 after his father's death and the invasion of Lorraine, and during his painful illness.
This later plate is on hard copper, deeply bitten to achieve 'the blackest hell'. It is very different from the first version and is placed by many critics among Callot's best works.
The composition's diablerie, reminiscent of Bosch, mordant humour combined with nightmarish profundity, contrast sharply with the solemn and reticent realism of the small religious scries of this period. Callot had always a penchant for the invention of devils; though these, and his felicitious observation of the earthy humour of seventeenth century man, generally remained secondary, if recurring, themes in his work. In the second Temptation he has allowed his imagination and humour full licence. As the limitless army of hellish demons hover over the abyss or cavort with musical intruments humourously adapted, they almost obiterate the wretched saint, whose ascetic, terrorised figure is hard to find.
[Brothers, Ann. Worlds in Miniature: The Etchings of Jacques Callot and Wencheslaus Hollar.
Sydney: National Gallery of Victory, 1998.]