"Essential" Santons for a Provençal Creche

Posted on March 30, 2012 | 2 Comments

We are proud to sell the Santons of the Marcel Carbonel Workshop in Marseille, Provence.  The Carbonel Workshop is the Premiere creator of Santons.

Click on the image above to find them in our shop.

As one peruses the Santons literature, one discovers lists here and there of the specific Provençal characters vital to the creche.    What makes the Santons creche so charming is that it is set not in Bethlehem, but rather in Provence.  The nativity figures are in biblical dress.  The additional creche figures typify characters found in an 18th or 19th century Provençal village, resulting in a year-in, year-out celebration of the area's history. The most authoritative list that we have found is from the book Provençal Figurines by C. Galtier and E. Cattin, translated by John Lee (Editions Ouest-France, 13 rue du Breil, Rennes, 1996).  They make specific reference to "A Referendum for the Ideal Creche."  Reportedly, L'Armana Prouvençau (a newspaper which we understand to be devoted to the preservation of the Provençal dialect and of all things Provençal) in 1968 published a list of 55 Santons (not including the basic nativity figures) from which they asked their readership to vote on which belonged in the "ideal creche."

L'Armana Prouvençau published the top 20 selected, with the number of votes received in the captions.  The photos portray most of the figures in size #2.  Almost all (or their equivalent) are available in all four sizes:  Puce, #1, #2, and #3.

The Shepherd - le Berger (23,000 votes)  The Delighted One - le Ravi (21,414)  The Blind Man - l'Aveugle (16,734)  The Old Folk - Les Vieux (16,704)
The Knife Grinder - Le Remouler (16,476)  The Miller - le Meunier (16,170)  Roustido (14,820) Margarido (14,070)
The Gypsy - le Bohémien (13,614)  Pistachie - le Pistaché (12,237)  Bartholomew - Bartoumiéu (10,476)  Jourdan - Jourdan (10,145)
The Tambourine-man - le Tambourinaire (10,122)  The Fishwife - la Poissonniêre (9,937)  The Hunter - le Chasseur (8,070) The Angler - le Pêcheur à la ligne (6,042) 
The Reeling-girl - la Fileuse 
 Woman carrying  Wood 
la Porteuse de fagots (5,148)
 The Woman carrying Garlic - la Porteuse d'ail (4,188)  The Shepherdess - la Bergère (3,432)
A variety of other lists of the "basic Santons" vital to the creche scene include:
The Baker - le Boulanger  The Basketmaker - Vincent le vannier  The Dairymaid - 
 The Mayor - Monsieur le Maire
The Parish Priest - Monsieur le curé  The Washerwoman - Bugadière  The Woman with a Cradle - Femme au Berceau  The Woman with a Rabbit - Femme au lapin

An interesting observation is that in my research I discovered a number of sources that suggested that there were "55 essential figures to the basic Santons nativity."  This statement exists in several renown French guide books.  I have the feeling that the "55" figure is mistakenly derived from Galtier's book, where he quotes L'Armana Prouvençeau and the fact that in doing their survey they provided a list of 55 Santons from which they asked their readership to select the 20 most ideal.  If you know otherwise, we would appreciate your comments.  We would also be interested in hearing from you regarding which figures you feel are essential.

Posted in Carbonel Santons, Provence Christmas



2 Responses

Sara Holman
Sara Holman

September 27, 2017

Yes, of course. Send them to admin@mygrowingtraditions.com. If you could include photos of the bottom of a piece and the back of the base. Hope I can help. Sally

Lise Lapointe
Lise Lapointe

September 19, 2017

Good morning, Our Museum received in donation many little figurines which seems to be Santons. But only one has a mark underneath. Where are the others from? Are they Escoffier or other? May I send you pictures to help us out? Thank you for your help!
Mrs L.L.

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