Saturday 16 July 2011

La Fileuse

"Ton rouet chantonne
Un air des aïeux,
Un chant monotone
Qui mouille les yeux :
Par des nuits pareilles
A ces chants amis
Que de vieux, de vieilles,
Se sont endormis !"
Very roughly translated: "Your wheel hums a tune of ancestors, monotonous singing which moistens the eyes. Through nights like these well known songs, old ones fell asleep."

A group of people in an obviously posed studio shot in order to show a traditional Breton scene.  Father and child are sitting on a wooden settle watching mother spinning, all intheir best traditional clothes.

It's all intended to show off traditional Breton life.  Britanny. to the north west of France, has always had a very separate identity from the rest of the country, including a separate language of Celtic origin.  These days the language is increasingly used and many schools offer bi-lingual education.

The settle is very typically carved in circles resembling ships' wheels, acknowledging the importance of the sea to the area..

The rhyme or song was written by Théodore Botrel.  He was born in Brittany and became know for his Breton songs, hundreds of them, themes being old age, love, Breton countryside, sentimentality.

As a side track, a detour into trivia, Botrel became famous after being noticed by Caran d'Ache.  I followed this up because I thought Caran d'Ache was a make of coloured pencil.  It turns out that Caran d'Ache was the nickname of a Russian born French political cartoonist.  the name derives from the Russian word for pencil.  The Swiss manufacturer of artists' materials was named after the cartoonist.

Back to the card, it was mailed in 1947, from Brittany to the Bas-Rhin in Alsace, on the eastern side of France.  The stamp, issued in 1946, shows Vézelay, in the Bourgogne, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The address no longer exists but I'd guess that the Rue Principale is the one now named Rue de la Libération.

This is a post for Sepia Saturday and almost follows the theme.
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  1. What a lovely old picture, and thank you so much for the aside about pencils; I do learn alot through these blogs!

  2. what a beautiful classic postcard!

  3. Interesting to see one mailed during my birth year.

  4. Oh, the French sentimentalité is so... how you say... timeless, Non?

    Thanks for the link on Monsieur Botrel. A very interesting celebrity for his time.

  5. I guess its the sepia and traditional costumes that make the card look older.

    Interesting trivia about the cartoonist and pencils.

  6. So many details in that postcard. I can't imagine wearing all those layers of clothes...

  7. Fascinating image. Would love to see the vibrant colors of their clothes.

  8. The postcard itself, the scene, and the clothing (I think) look much older than 1947 Was that area of France known for its flax and linen?

  9. Why, that postcard is almost as old as I am, Sheila, and that is almost ancient. Very interesting commentary!

  10. I do love posts which so carefully explore a simple card and bring out all the fascinating detail.

  11. Fine post, Sheila. A card with so much details which you have enhanced with the additional information.

  12. Lots of historical information here which I did not know and all that from one postcard. Good post!

  13. No TV in them days! we just watched ma on her spinning wheel.. I like the poem, sentimental, but touching all the same.

  14. Great postcard. I am glad to know about extra trivia too, because I have a vintage Swiss advertising poster for Caran d'Ache.

  15. and on the card, on that august 18th, it is apparently quite hot and Jacques swims in the river almost daily.
    wish i could do that here, but the current would drown me, even if i knew how to swim...

  16. The best history is made of ephemera like this. Thanks for an interesting Sepia post.


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