The son of an engineer at the Civitavecchia harbour, Calamatta, orphaned as a child, was educated by his uncle. In his early years he moved to Rome where he devoted himself to the art of drawing and engraving. Among his Roman teachers there were the engravers Antonio Ricciani and Domenico Marchetti. He went to Paris in 1822, where he became a follower of Ingres and made his first appearance at the Salon of 1827. Calamatta worked in Paris from 1823 until 1836, when he moved to Brussels as a professor at the Ecole Royale (1836-61). In 1860 he was appointed director of the Scuola d'Incisione at the Brera Academy and moved to Milan. A rebel spirit, Calamatta participated in the revolutionary movements of 1848 in Paris and fought on the side of Garibaldi in the third Italian Independence War (1866).