The South of France

I discovered these old prints of the south of France in a second-hand bookshop in Yokohama in the mid-1990s. They’re reproductions of chromographic photographs (photochromes) taken by Msr Giletta at the beginning of the 20th century when the watering holes of the Midi were fashionable with the English beau monde. It’s a horse and carriage world, with tramways in the Place Masséna, which dates the images post-1876. When I looked this fact up on Wikipedia, I found that the black and white photo there is the same as my photochromed one.

The original postcards were published by Raphael Tuck and Sons. But who knows how they found their way to that second-hand bookshop under the train tracks in Yamate. It had a back room filled with manga, where a couple of boys in middle-school uniforms idly flicked through the magazines. Yamate is near the old Foreign Concession on the Bluff in Yokohama, so perhaps the prints made their way there by ship.

What I like about them is the Japanese woodblock approach to the horizon: salmon pink and lollipop orange. The photo of the Château at St Honorat on the island of the same name off the coast at Cannes shows four monks in attitudes of meditation, like boys on silent retreat in St. Macartan’s College when I was a student there. The Château is part of the present day Cistercian monastery and was founded by St Honorat at the beginning of the 5th century. St Patrick trained there before going on to Ireland. 28 brothers still live and work in the monastery, producing a fine wine, honey and spirits.