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A beautiful pair of Provençal santons or "little saints," both inscribed with the script signature mark 'M. Di Landro,' were made in the town of Aubagne by the late, renowned santonnier--maker of santons--Maryse Di Landro (1945-2007). These statues, called 'santous' in Provence, are made of terracotta clay, then hand painted and fired. Dressed in 18th century style hand made traditional clothes in Provençal fabrics, the santons are given the final touch of accessories, like the clay and wood jugs carried by this charming couple (there's one at his feet, also). This couple, we think, are potiers (potters) bringing their wares to market.
Monsieur is wearing a pair of brown boots peeking out from under his corduroy trousers. He also wears a plaid shirt with the tiniest buttons, a black felt vest and floppy brown felt hat. Madame's skirt and shawl are made of 'les indiennes,' the classic textiles of Provence, while her bodice is satin the color of French olives. She wears a lace trimmed petticoat and a pair of pantaloons. Her ruffled mob cap, also edged in lace, is topped with a straw bonnet.
Both santons measure 12 inches tall; Madame's bonnet makes her a bit taller. They are heavy; Madame is 1 3/4 pounds, while Monsieur weighs 2 pounds 3 ounces. Both are in excellent condition; Madame has a bit of dark stain (perhaps a dash of café au lait) on the hem of her skirt on both the back and the front. Fortunately, it does not stand out greatly against the dark fabric. We found evidence that at some point she wore an apron that is no longer present. The statues are fixed securely on round terracotta bases and stand steadily on any flat surface.
Maryse Di Landro began making santons in 1976; her workshop soon housed a family business as her works of art became renowned. The building is still a workshop and a santon museum as well, run by her nephew and his family. Making a santon was and still is is a labor of love.
Santons were invented during the French Revolution when all the churches were shut down by the authorities and Nativity scenes were banned. French people began making homemade crèches that were mirrors of their local villages, rather than religious in appearance. In the 20th century, santonniers began firing the figures in a clay oven so they were more durable. The city of Aubagne is known as the “Capitale du Santon,” the center of santon making and Maryse Di Landro's workshop is one of the most famous. The beautiful details and exquisite artistry of this pair of santons will warm your heart and your home.