Friday, July 21, 2017

Bourdelle's "La France": Montauban copy

When I first saw Bourdelle's La France in Paris in 2011 (on LoS), it encompassed a lot of what I was writing about at the time, featuring symbols with which I'd become very familiar:  A strong woman as an embodiment of France, a serpent, pillars, and a triangle.

There are four bronze castings of the sculpture made from the original maquette, and the Paris version is the fourth (dedicated June 14, 1948).  Another is in Montauban, the capital of the Tarn-et-Garonne, just a short hop up the road from chez moi.  This second casting was dedicated on November 13, 1932.  The base feautures plaques commemorating every conflict from WWI to 21st-century military actions in places such as Chad and ex-Yugoslavia, a couple of names each on small "ex-voto" compared to the hundreds of names around the base naming the staggering number of victims of the Great War.  If you examine my not-so-great photographs, you'll see that for some reason in version two the spear carried by the Athena-like woman is longer than version four, the spearhead seems slightly different, and it certainly isn't hung with the two wreaths one sees on the Paris casting.

The third version is also quite a bit different, as it (quoting myself): 

had originally been placed at the entrance of the "foire d'Alger." After the foire, it was put on the terrace of the Musée de Beaux-Arts, where she scrutinized the Mediterranean.  This one has the most storied history.
As a symbol of de Gaulle, the statue was blown up on the evening of November 26, 1961 by the OAS (Organisation armée secrète), a far-right group who despised de Gaulle for what they perceived as his treason towards Algeria, then a French Department, after his actions led to Algerian independence in 1962.  The socle was pulverized and the statue damaged. 
After this symbolic attack, the pieces were collected and stored until the statue could be repaired.  The French ambassador obtained permission to recover the statue but the French administration refused to pay for the transport cost, instead foisting the responsibility upon Paris' Bourdelle museum.  It was eventually taken to be repaired but the part of the support which depicted the snakes, as well as that part of the lance which held the olive branches, were too damaged to be repaired.  This lance was later sawed down in order for it to fit inside the museum of the Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan military academy.
So.  Not much new, I just happened to stumble upon La France (#2) in Montauban recently, after having forgotten my idea to try and hunt it down after reading about it while researching the one in Paris.  The different castings each have their own history, and I was surprised to learn they had originally been cast for different kinds of monuments. For example, the original maquette was made to commemorate the US' entry into the First World War.  The project floundered but a half-sized casting was exposed at the Salon in 1923.  In 1925, the full-sized, 9m version was cast for use in an expo, after which it was acquired by Briançon, where it stands alone as the city's war memorial.  The second was made directly for Montauban's monument aux morts.  The commission for the Montauban monument, described as a "temple," was given to Bourdelle in 1921, but the monument was not completed until 1930, a year after Bourdelle's death.  The third sat outside a museum in Algiers, was dynamited by the OAS, and then reassembled for another museum, inside this time, at the École St-Cyr.  Number four honors the Free French and "the call" of June 18 by de Gaulle, and was privately funded.  The OAS must have been thrilled.

In addition to the four 9m casts, there are also some 4.6m casts held by various museums.

Apparently, Bourdelle considered La France to be his greatest work, which is saying something, considering that Bourdelle's body of work is impressive in both quantity and quality.  If you look at his lifespan, 1861-1929, the radical modernity of his work is especially striking.  It's really kind of surprising he's not as well-known as say, Rodin, who was an admirer.  I'm lucky that quite a few of his sculptures dot Montauban.  La France is only one of many Bourdelle's works to be found in and around the historic city center near what is now a museum for another native-son, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

St. Fris: Photos at last!

For a tiny little town (pop. 391) just a few klicks away from the middle of nowhere, I've managed to pass through Bassoues three times in the last 15 or so years.  The first time, I was astonished to come across a statue of what appeared to be a soldier (shield, raised sword, spear) who turned out to be Saint.  This was St. Fris, a supposed nephew of Charles Martel, who led a small band of Franks to repulse a Saracen invasion at this very spot.

St. Fris holds a certain fascination for me because he was my introduction to the world of folk saints.  These are highly localized, their real names often unknown, their very existence quite often doubtful.  Their legends, however, often share mythical elements not only with each other, but with more well-known religious figures.  The hagiography of St. Fris, for example, shares details with St. James, of Compostela fame, in that after his death, his body was somehow miraculously encased in rock.

From within this rock, a spring appeared, with miraculous healing properties.  We see the same story at Rocamadour, with the legends of Saints Quiteria and Liberata; with the majority of what are known as Black Madonnas; with the hermit Dadon, who after his "furtive translation" (i.e. theft) of Saint Foy's remains, struck the ground with his staff and voila!  H²O!  The same story is found at Covadonga, in Asturias, in the story of Pelagius, who in 722 is said to have pretty much kicked off the Reconquista.

So despite being a figure with an extremely limited geographical domain, he is nonetheless endowed with the powers over the forces necessary for the survival of what Julian Barnes calls the Ultimate Peasant: water, health, protection from attackers.  St. Fris is pretty much limited to the Gers:  he saturates Bassoues; there's a small cult at Vic-Fezensac (a town with a strong connection to another local element of folklore: the bull); and a small shrine at the cathedral in Auch.  Fris isn't even his real name; the legend states that when his uncorrupt body emerged from a rock being licked away as if it were salt, no one knew his name, so they called him St. Fris after his familial connection to the Frisian Islands. 

I recall being happily surprised in Asturias when I came across two hamlets, one dedicated to St. Sernin, and, more surprisingly, the "Saintes Puelles" (here called "Pueyes -- the Argentine "ll" and "y" share the same "zh" pronunciation so the changed spelling is fonetickly the same).  I mention this because I wonder if somewhere along the St James Way we can find either a hamlet named after Fris, or a chapel; would you give me a bust in a basilica maybe?

Anyhow, third time's a charm because as I recounted in a previous post, I never managed to get some photos in my first two visits.

So, without further adieu, I present thee with the photographs:

This first is typical of regional architecture, thick walls of rough-hewn stone; small, round widows; often asymmetric facade; a single tower; spare to zero ornamentation.

St. Fris Basilica

St. Fris shrine at l’Étendard hill
This shrine is located at the site where St. Fris allegedly planted his flagpole/spear in the ground, his line in the sand, and with a rousing "into the breach" pep talk, rallied his troops to defeat a rear-guard of Moors as they fled south after being routed at Poitiers.
There's a cinematic quality to the story of St. Fris; it could make a good film.  St. Fris rallies his men and defeats the Moors, but one last arrow, let loose by a young embittered hothead finds its mark and strikes the young champion.

Lakeside chapel dedicated the St. Fris
Fris' horse, suddenly without guidance, bolts, the dying Fris slumped in the saddle, bouncing brutally as the horse flees in terror.  It comes to a spot near a river.  The corpse of the young hero falls to the ground, is encased in rock and lays undisturbed for centuries, until a cow, licking away at the rock, reveals St Fris, apparently still magnificently mustachioed, for all representation of the saint feature long Asterix-like facial-hair.

The chapel itself is unremarkable and also typical of the region. Unfortunately one cannot see inside.  The S.F. monogram under the bell is a nice touch.

Lakeside chapel: facade
Finally, here's a photo of the scared spring with reputed healing powers.

Sacred spring: St. Fris chapel
So basically, since the Middle Ages, pilgrims came specifically to see the relics of St. Fris or visited on their way to Compostela (probably this is what accounts for the legend that Fris' body, like that of St. James, was encased in stone).  Pilgrims would ether drink or bathe in these waters for their reputed healing powers, but it wasn't until 1890 that the village priest, one Abbé Blajan, had the chapel built and (not pictured), a small bathhouse where numerous miracles have been reported.

I can think of half a dozen similar fountains within a short distance from my home.  In my village the fountain was reputedly best for fevers and stomach troubles.  Dedicated to John the Baptist, the current rude structure is only made of mud but has stood since 1713 on the site of a much more ancient chapel.  In at least two neighboring villages there are chapels with healing springs.  All of these are positioned along the local tendrils of the St. James Way that converge upon St. Jean-Pied-le-Port, both the beginning of the "French Road" to Santiago and the last stop in France before pilgrims cross the Pyrenees to arrive at Roncevalles.

So, finally LoS has some photos from my own telephone to illustrate to places where St. Fris was struck and where his body came to rest.  I made a longish detour on my return journey after three-plus days on the St. James Way, following the same route as millions of pilgrims before me.

St. Fris was the nephew of Charles Martel, who in 732 had defeated the Moors at Poitiers.  As the Moorish army fled, their rear guard encountered a small group of Franks led by Fris; his legend is thus directly tied to the battle which is said to have stopped the until then indefatigable advance of the Moors into Europe.

Ironically, later battles had Charlemagne, Martel's grandson, and thus Fris' cousin, allied with the Moorish Wali of Barcelona and Girona to combat his rivals in the Iberian peninsula.  The Wali received military aid and Charlemagne saw an opportunity to shore up his power and strengthen the Christian position in general.  In 778 Charlemagne was dealt his only military defeat at the Battle of Roncevaux Pass as his rear-guard was ambushed by Basques in revenge for Charlemagne's attack on Pamplona, a Basque capital, during his adventures in the basque Country.  Fris' encounter reverses the roles,some wishful thinking to clean up an otherwise spotless military record.

In 824 a second battle occurred, where a combined Basque and Muslim army defeated a Carolingian expeditionary force.  Lots of shifting alliances, no?  The Carolingians had gone to quash a rebellion in that pesky Pamplona and met no resistance.  However, marching back with plunder, they were ambushed at Roncevaux pass and soundly defeated, much like Charlemagne 46 years prior.  The Basques were the true victors here, for the battle led directly to the establishment of the independent Kingdom of Pamplona.

So, though Fris's tale is probably a fiction, there is a possible historical basis for the story.

For the rest of St. Fris' hagiography, read my original post.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Open Source Band Names List for as yet unnamed or non-existent bands II

List Part I, with introduction, etc.

The Lumps                           
Arnold Schwartz & Eggers                           
Men at Twerk                           
Qatari Teenage Riot                           
The Jock Juice Three                           
Jaundice Factory                           
Jumpin' Jack Rash                           
The Union Jackoffs                           
Yiddish Puns                           
Black is the New Black                           
New Kids on the Black                           
Black Addled                           
Streamlined Streamlined                           
Egg MacGuffin                           
Jorny Jip-Jip                           
M P'TE                           
The Heartwarmers                           
Richard Head and the Nozzlers                           
Dick In Dike                           
Kobold Kim and the Bree-Yarks                           
Muslim Microbus                           
Headscarf Hillary and the Heartworms                           
Camel Otter                           
Knob Gobblers                           
Joseph Gobbles and the Turkey-Trots                           
Hock the Herald                           
Cry For Micah                           
Millions of Dead Millennials                           
The Skamps                           
Shrimp Skampi                           
Ask for Ska                           
Skary Monsters                           
Skar Tissue                           
The Nigerian Skammers                           
Skate Pork                           
Tampa Babies                           
Tina Turner Diaries                           
Miffed Max                           
Perky Peg                           
Bugs Bun E. Carlos                        
Urine Traffic                           
This Disgusting Person                           
Nine-Inch Nose                           
Cruise Effects                           
Sons of Xemu                           
Suns of Distortion                           
The Solar Flairs                           
Donkey King                           
Soul Pumper                           
Rotorious Dud                           
Muslim Banned                           
The Bleeding Faces                           
Bloody Fee Sees!                           
Class Action Zoot Suit                           
Sorry for Killing You                           
K Krispy Kreme                           
Burning Bung                           
The Bronks                           
The Buddy Cistern                           
The Cisterns of Mercy                           
Pulpit Fiction                           
Pulp Friction                           
The Game Was Thrown                           
Fear the Working Dad                           
Twain Peeks                           
Sang Froid and Son                           
Han Oslo                           
Little Lincoln                           
Sonny Hates Beards                           
Orkin Mindy                           
Bacon Porn                           
James Bondage                           
Hieroglyphic Scrabble                           
The Gnolls                           
Heaven's Under Fire
Lyle Love it or Leave It   
Lovin' Eyeful   
Crtical Mash   
Neck Race 2000   
Turd Balloon   
Blood Lite   
Bloodletting for Beginners   
A Cure for Old Age   
Leech or Lech?   
State Prism   

Smog Toy
Snub Nose 6
Rectum Rocket
Grand Theft Otter