Images from the Past


Quimper has a very good art museum, Musée des Beaux Arts Quimper. It features everything from ancient Italian madonnas to late 20th century modern art. Max Jacob was a native son of Quimper and a room has been dedicated to his work for a number of years. As you walk into the museum the first large display rooms contain works by artists who painted their Breton neighbors in the 19th century, and perhaps earlier. As I wrote on this blog when I was in Antwerp in January, I enjoy images of how people lived in the pre-camera ages. This museum has a collection of large canvasses that give us a glimpse of the fishermen and farmers and their wives and children who lived in this most westerly corner of France long ago. The museum permits the taking of photos so I can share some of these images with you. (Clicking on the images will make them bigger.)


To thank the Virgin for his survival on a recent voyage, this sailor – with bare feet – deposits with respect an ex-voto* a model of a ship before the statute of the Virgin and her Child. He is accompanied by his wife and children while all his community looks on. Painting entitled “Ex-Voto” by Henri Royer, 1898. (An ex-voto is a religious offering given in order to fulfill a vow.)


Les Moissonneuses (the Harvesters) by Pierre Dupuis, 1893. (a Google search for this French word returned ads for harvesting machines.)


L’Arrivée du Pardon de Sainte-Anne de Fouesnant à Concarneau. by Alfred Guillou, 1887. In France the term “pardon” is used for religious ceremonies when icons from the church are paraded to celebrate the saint’s day or another important occasion. Usually these involve men carrying heavy icons through the streets but in Brittany apparently it was common to bring the saints in by small boats.

Translating the sign posted by the painting entitled “The Arrival of the Pardon of Sainte-Anne” (above): “The pardon is one of the manifestations of the faith in Brittany. In holiday dress, carrying banners and statues men, women and children return by land and sea [the statue of Saint Anne of Fouesnant] to the sanctuary.” Saint Anne is the patron saint of sailors. The next image is similar.



Visite à la Vierge of Benodet (Visit to the Virgin of Benodet), Jean-Eugène Buland, 1898. The painting shows a man and woman praying at the statue of the Virgin. (The sign posted besidet his paining in the museum explains in detail who the artist’s models were: the woman ran the mercer’s shop in the street of the church and the man worked in the hotel next door to the church.)

Here are a few others I really like.


The women of the village gather to buy fabric at the village market. Jules Trayer, Les Marché aux Chiffons dans le Finistere (The Cloth Market in Western Brittany),1886


And the men gather for sport — in this case, “boules” or “petanque” which is similar to bowling. Théophile Desrolles: Les Joueurs des Boules (The Boules Players), no date.


People of a village dancing at a wedding. Adolph Leleux, Une Noce en Bretagne (A Wedding in Brittany), 1863


This woman is carrying the water for her household from the town spring, seen behind her. Jules Breton, A la Fontaine (At the Fountain), 1892


A couple of old sailors engaged in conversation. Alfred Guillou, A la Abri de la Tempête (Taking shelter from the storm), about 1890.

The image at the top of this post is exactly the view I see (except for the dress of the people) each time I walk from my apartment in Quimper to the center of the city. Every building is still there. The painting is by William Parrott, Le Cathédrale Saint-Corentin de Quimper (Saint Corentin’s Cathedral, Quimper), about 1860

2 thoughts on “Images from the Past

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.