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Final Farewell: The Culture of Death and the Afterlife
The Virgin Receiving Martyrs into Heaven
Jacques Callot was a Baroque graphic artist, draftsman, and printmaker from the Duchy of Lorraine (an independent state on the north-eastern border of France). Early in Callot’s career he made etchings with subject matter such as soldiers, clowns, drunkards, wanderers, beggars, and other social outcasts. Later he turned to landscapes and religious subject matter for inspiration.
The Virgin Receiving Martyrs into Heaven is an example of a religious theme that was carried over from the medieval period. The living had begun calling upon the Virgin Mary as a saint even though she was not a martyr. Like other saints, she acted as an intercessor between the worshipper and Christ. She was also considered to be the most important saint and served as the epitome of merciful and pious behavior, which all were inspired to follow. In Callot’s etching, the Virgin welcomes martyrs, who file through cloudbanks toward a gateway. This idealized version of heaven and the afterlife still persists today.
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