Monday, March 3, 2014


Jacques Callot, The Hanging, from The Miseries of War, ca. 1630, etching.  

HANG GALLOWS LOOK.  A thievish or villainish appearance  [The modern hang-dog look]

HANG IN CHAINS.  A vile, desperate fellow.  Persons guilty of murder, or other atrocious crimes, are frequently, after execution, hanged on a gibbet, to which they are fastened by iron bandages:  the gibbet is commonly placed on or near the place where the crime was committed.  [Cf.  Northumberland, hang-a-balk.  EDD.]

HANG IT UP.  Score it up; speaking of a reckoning.  [Cant, 1725.F.]

HANGMAN’S WAGES.  Thirteen pence halfpenny; which, according to the vulgar tradition, was thus allotted:  one shilling for the execution, and three halfpence for the rope.—N.B.  This refers to former times;  the hangmen of the present day having, like other artificers, raised their prices. The true state of this matter is, that a Scottish mark was the fee allowed for an execution, and the value of that piece was settled by a proclamation of James I at thirteen pence halfpenny.  [In Shropshire, money was paid beforehand for a piece of work.EDD.]

FROM:  Captain Francis Grose, A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, Edited with a biographical sketch and critical sketch and an extensive commentary by Eric Partridge, New York, Barnes & Noble, 1963.

Jacques Callot, Les Supplices (The Punishments), before 1630, etching.

NOTE:  Ukraine fears prompted this post and stopped my fingers’ promenade through Captain Grose’s dictionary when I finally reached the "Hanging" section after a long, frustrating morning. Now, when I think about “hanging,”  I think of the Lorraine genius Jacques Callot (1692-1735).  I’ve loved Callot’s work since I was very young and very small.  My mother had beautifully bound collection of his complete etchings (along with biographical and critical material) on a lower bookshelf and I pored over it early and earnestly in exactly the same way I did my Superman and Batman comics.  It was an easy and natural thing to do because Callot’s war reportage and other work told vivid stories and included astonishing amounts of legible detail.  Years later in college the best course I ever took was the Master Print Makers seminar taught by Professor Robert Walker.  Students worked directly and exclusively with original artworks, including Callot’s etchings (and works by every other graphic master you can think of).  It was unforgettable and extraordinarily valuable time -- the furthest thing from seeing poor book reproductions or internet images.  By paying attention and looking closely and patiently you could "get" the whole thing.  I was lucky then.  I hope we all get lucky now.  Times seem unlucky. 


Jacques Callot, Grotesque Dwarf, 1635, etching. 

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