Chodowiecki - Farewell to Calas

Table of Chodowiecki galleries

Chodowiecki - Farewell to Calas

Etching by Daniel Chodowiecki, 1767 (E 48)

Etching by Daniel Chodowiecki, 1767 (E 48)
Jean Calas was a highly respected cloth merchant in Toulouse. In October 1761 he was accused of having murdered his eldest son Marc Antoine to prevent his conversion to Catholicism. The young lawyer had in actual fact committed suicide. In a sensational trial Calas was condemned to death and broken on the wheel on 10th March 1762 while protesting his innocence.

The French philosopher Voltaire, angered by this travesty of justice, took up the case, demanding in a treatise religious toleration. All over Europe people were enraged at this legal error. By his vigorous intervention Voltaire obtained the vindication of Calas and the restitution of the property which the French state had seized.

On his etching Cholowiecki shows the Calas family in prison taking leave of their father who is in fetters .In the background two soldiers and a monk are waiting to lead the prisoner off. Chodowiecki's sympathetic treatment of this emotional and dramatic situation was an immediate success, securing the artist's breakthrough as a recognized engraver and illustrator.
Gift of the Consistory of the French Church of Berlin

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