Santon de Provence: 'femme à la lavande' - Terracotta - France - 1950-1959
Classic Santon de Provence, a so-called 'femme à la lavende', signed by one of the most famous traditional Santonniers, Peirano.
Santons (Provençal: "santoun" or "little saint") are small hand-painted terracotta nativity figurines produced in Provence in southeastern France. In a traditional Provencal crèche there are 55 individual figures representing different characters from Provencal village life. The first clay santons were made by Marseillais craftsman Lagnel (1761-1822) during the French Revolution when churches were forcibly closed and their large nativity scenes banned. Lagnel made small statues in plaster molds and let them dry before firing them.
A maker of "santons" is a santonnier and the creation of santons today is essentially a family craft, passed down from parents to children. Santons are poured into two halves, pressed together and melted. Hats, baskets and other accessories are applied with an adhesive. When the figure is completely dry, it is given a gelatin bath to further harden the figure and provide a surface for applying pigments. Faces are painted first, followed by hair, clothing and accessories. Until the end of the 19th century, santons were dried in the open air rather than baked in an oven. As a result, such figures were fragile and easily breakable. Modern santons are generally baked in an oven. There are two types of santons: santons d'argile (clay figures) and doll-like santons habillés (clothed figures).
Status report: in good condition
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