December is when the beautiful tradition of Santons comes alive in Provence. From Marseille to Vaison-la-Romaine, there are artisanal fairs showcasing the exquisite work of artisans’ yearly work.
Below a nativity exhibition at the medieval town’s cathedral in Vaison-la-Romaine
Santons are terracotta characters impersonating the nativity scene. The tradition started back in the early 18th c: the first Santons where created in Marseille by a sculptor named Jean-Louis Lagnel. He represented, along the religious nativity, some locals tradesman and women and local characters. The baker, the miller, the knife-grinder, the fisherman, the fishmonger, the hunter, the chimney sweeper, the laundry lady, the wood carrier where amongst the first classics, along with a nice guy called “le ravi”. Le ravi is someone always enthusiastic and admirative, a very likeable character we are maybe missing these days…
The Santons reflect the local trades and people, but also the Santoniers’ particular aesthetics. In our part of Provence, we unsurprisingly find a man carrying lavender. One popular Santon also represents the “Arlesienne”, she epitomises Provencal elegance and is widely represented, well outside her native Arles.
Below some shots taken in Seguret, where there are still a few Santonniers in activity. This also was an open door day where many art and artisans’ studios where open to the public, a perfect occasion to find meaningful presents!
And back to Vaison’s cathedral. Love the realistic Mistral character, and also the exquisites details of the clothing in aexquisites village scene, down to the patterns of the fabric and the texture of the boutis!
And at home at la Baye des Anges over the years
Traditional over lavender flowers
And a bit deconstructed over Eucalyptus leaves