A few years ago, whilst on holiday in France, a bought a small item from a flea market called a Canivet. You will see from the picture what attracted me to it! It is a bit like a papercut with an image in the centre.
The Canivet is an art connected to small holy pictures and it was probably born in France, mostly crafted by monks and nuns in the 18th century, with a small knife called "canif", which they have taken their name "canivet" from. This kind of works soon spread outside monasteries. Besides being devotion objects (also called Prayer Cards), the Canivets were also used to celebrate anniversaries and to gladden events.
There are many example of canivets, I am drawn to the beauty of the craft rather than it’s purpose. It took me a while to draw inspiration from it, pined up on my wall in front of my desk, I would often gaze at it and so one day during lockdown, I finally got an idea. I experimented and today I am ready to share the results with you. Here are a few photos but you can see the artwork on display at the Montague Gallery from Sunday 13th June when I will also be there (until 1pm) if you would like to pop in for a chat!
Here is an interesting blog post I came across about Canivet in Italy.
Further information about 19th Century "Canivet Holy cards" .
Bouasse-Lebel printing house was founded in Paris by Eulalie Lebel in 1845 at the age of 36. Her family had a long history of being in the printing business: her father was a printer and engraver, and her maternal grandfather was a printer and librarian. Her marriage to François-Marie Bouasse, (who was also from a printing family) ended poorly, however, and Eulalie was forced to find a way to support herself and her two sons. She decided to do this by founding her own printing company. Thus, the Maison Bouasse-Lebel was born.
Both printing works were famous for the unusual design of their religious printing art, in particular for their delicate, precious lace images.
The machine-punched lace pictures of the 19th century replaced the paper and parchment cut picture created in the early 17th century as a new type of small devotional picture, which was more widely used than the hand-made picture due to the industrial, reproducible production. The Bouasse-Lebel company was one of the leading manufacturers of these small pictures in France, most of which had the company name printed on them. The delicate lace and embossed images are coveted collectors' items today and are traded between 5.00 and approx. 80.00 euros depending on the features (e.g. lace decoration, hand-colored engraving, chromolithography).
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