jeudi 19 septembre 2013

Génial ..... le Géniole!

Fille d'Ouessant -  Géniole
This image is from"Les Français peints par eux-mêmes" LINK  Tome II 1876 - 1878 a delightful illustration from an artist whose life appears to be little documented. It would seem to  be one of very few pictures of womens dress in the mid to late 19th century from the island of Ouessant.   I was curious to know more. Wiki dates the image to around  1877,  however a search on the artist  Alfred André Géniole revealed that he died in  1861. Why would this artist whose works can be sold for significant sums be on the island of Ouessant and when!

It seems that there is no biography to be found on the artist and of the few references to his work he  travelled widely but I did find a reference to him being in the Guerande in 1839 and also  in Saint Pol for a commission. Génioles work, although not the image above did appear in  an earlier version of the book by Alfred de Courcy LINK   the original version was published in 1842 with some drawings by Géniole of Breton folk in  regional costume. By  1841 Géniole had moved again and was in Paris.

Is it possible that the costume depicted is actually much earlier than it has been attributed by some and that it is from the earlier part of the 19th century? 

Descriptions of the womens costume of around the same time are few and far between but one account would seem to tally largely with the illustration by Géniole.  J B Beaufils a resident medical practitionner writes in  1819 in the account of his time on the island that the womens dress was  quite peculiar, they wore a type of spencer ( a short bodice with sleeves ) made in toile or printed coton which covered a wide  fichu ( fabric worn under a bodice to cover the low neckline ) the costume was capped off by a large piece of toile or batiste starched and folded, which was worn to a length to  cover the ears and hair. They usually wore a  thick woollen skirt woven on the island from the blackish wool of their flocks of sheep. In summer they often went barefoot although in winter sabots ( breton clogs) were worn.

This type of costume with some variation is periodically documented through the islands history pre 20th century and is an integral part in  understanding the islanders relationship and dependance on their sheep. I will expand on this in another post. Génioles portrait  manages to capture a youthfulness and almost carefree spirit in a lifestyle that can have been anything but easy. An artists impression, most definately but one that can be shown to correspond to contemporary accounts of island custom.

"Fille d'Ouessant" dessin de Géniole qui date probablement de la première moitié du 19iéme siècle et qui montre le costume des femmes de l'île d'Ouessant à cet époque. Malgré le fait qu'il y a très  peu d'images de cet periode , le costume de la jeune fille correspond bien avec la description publié  en 1819 par  J B Beaufils*  médecin sur l'île. 

Il a décrit le costume des femmes, elles portent  "une sorte de spencer de toile ou d'indienne, que surmonte un large fichu de couleur.....leur figure qui en  général est jolie, se trouve encapuchonnée sous un grande morceau de toile ou de batiste empesée ou plié en plusieurs doubles qu'elles font descendre sur les  oreilles....Elles portent ordinairement de gros droguet noirâtre, fabriqué dans l'île avec la laine de ses troupeaux;"

 Beaufils, J. B., 1819,
Topographie physique et médicale de l'île d'Ouessant.  : Receuil de mémoires de médecine, de chirurgie et de pharmacie militaire Huzard, Paris.



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The Ouessant Sheep originates from the island of Ouessant, part of a tiny archipelago just off the north coast of Finistere, Brittany. The island of terror as it was known to some, was swept by the full force of the atlantic’s weather, the hardy sheep adapted to survive on poor grazing from salty clifftop meadows. It was the women of the island that raised the sheep, renowned for their black wool to weave into cloth known locally as berlinge and their meat with its sweet and delicate taste.

La race "Mouton d'Ouessant" est originaire de l’île d’’Ouessant qui fait parti d’un petit archipel au large du Finistère, Bretagne. L’île de l'épouvante comme c'était connu par certains était balayé par les intempéries de l’atlantique, ces moutons rustiques s'adaptaient à survivre sur les pâturages pauvres des falaises salées. C’était les femmes de l’île qui élevaient les moutons réputés pour leur laine noire à tisser « la berlinge » une étoffe régionale et leur viande avec un goût doux et délicat.

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