Jacques Callot's magnificent etching, La Carrière de Nancy, shows the grand square of his home town filled with minutely detailed activity. Acrobats tumble on a portable stage at the left. Near by, a stilt-walker throws coins to the crowd. Swordsmen duel in the center foreground. On the extreme right, a festival float carrying Eros and Anteros enters the scene. The central part of the image shows the fenced-in tournament yard, with invited spectators watching jousting from the stands on the right, next to a sunlit row of aristocratic houses. In the shadows on the left, people crowd the fence and climb the rooftops of the lesser houses to get a view. Scampering dogs appear throughout.
Scholars have been unable to match the image to a specific festival, though the antics and the presence of sleds have led some to assume it is winter, and therefore Carnival. More likely, given the lack of snow, mix of activities, and different degrees of dress, Callot has created a visual fantasia where a year's worth of events takes place simultaneously in front of the ducal palace.
This etching complements two particular strengths of the Folger collection: etchings of contemporary life in the early modern era—not only French scenes by Jacques Callot, but also English and Continental scenes by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677) and Dutch scenes by Romeyn de Hooghe (1645–1708)—and lavishly-illustrated festival books, primarily the gift of Mrs. H. Dunscombe Colt.
Purchase of the etching was made possible through the Mary and Eric Weinmann Acquisitions Fund.