|Fille d'Ouessant - Géniole|
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,