Broadsheet (378 x 310 mm.) on laid paper, deckle edges. Large central stencil- colored woodcut of Saint Solange, framed by letterpress text: a three-line title in large type, narrow bands of text on either side consisting of lyrics to a song about the Saint, and a litany, with imprint at bottom. A few innocuous short marginal tears, one small crease at center left, a small color smudge on imprint. Archivally matted. ***
A fine impression, with bright contemporary coloring, of a Chartres devotional print with text, honoring the patron saint of the province of Berry, whose festival day is the 10th of May. The legend of the ninth-century Saint Solange describes her as a shepherdess from the village of Villemont (in the present-day department of the Cher) who had powers of healing the sick and chasing away evil by her mere presence, and who was accompanied at night by a bright star which lit her way in the dark. Her martyrdom came at the hands of a rapist on horseback, the son of the Count of Poitiers, who assaulted and then decapitated her in anger after her struggles pitched them both into a nearby stream. Her head is said to have uttered the name of Jesus three times, after which the body picked it up and carried it back to the village church before dying.
The present simply cut but charming woodcut shows a more peaceful scene, with the Saint spinning wool under a flowering tree, a dog at her feet, in the background grazing sheep and a distant village, with a divine ray blazing down at her and angels in the clouds. The poem in the left-hand column, to be sung to the popular tune “Afin d’être docile et sage,” relates her life and death in indirect terms and gives thanks for her protection of the faithful of Berry from “birds, winds, tempests, and thunderstorms.”
The full imprint reads ... “chez Garnier-Allabre, Fabricant d’Images et Marchand de Papiers peints, place des Halles, no. 389,” the address used by the firm from 1805 to 1815. Jacques-Pierre Garnier, from Versailles, married the daughter of the recently deceased Chartres printseller Marin Allabre in 1805, continuing the business under the dual name. Garnier-Allabre acquired a large stock of earlier blocks from other engravers, which he seems to have continued to publish, anonymously; most of the prints issued under his imprint were the work of his own engravers. The prints, as well as chapbooks and canards (popular news pamphlets), were sold on site to the many pilgrims who visited Chartres, and further afield through a network of colporteurs. In 1828 Garnier-Allabre was obliged to sell his recent blocks and printed stock to Castiaux and Blocquel of Lille. The firm’s large woodcuts, now so valuable, were sadly sold to a merchant to be used for wrapping textiles!
In spite of its relatively short existence, the Garnier-Allabre firm dominated print production in Chartres and is the main source of extant popular prints from that city, which are considered among the best of the genre. Many of the prints used the format of a central woodcut flanked by two columns of letterpress text, as here.
Musée national des arts et traditions populaires, Nicole Garnier, ed. L’Imagerie populaire française I, 261 and pp.123-4; cf. Prouté, Imagerie populaire française, p. 24. Item #2872