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Les Réclames

Iconography of Provence

This month, Calisson by Gilles will talk about a topic that has made Provence famous worldwide. We are going to explore the “Réclames” which are the first advertisements of products in order to make them known for everybody and everywhere. Thereafter we will discover the postcards from Provence. The region of Provence has been a precursor within the marketing and product placement.

Today is more than a visual topic, it is a motivational one which can inspire you to take the initiative to re-design your kitchen with old and vintage Provence advertisements! So let’s get on board, and let’s discover how Provence has become one of the leader in advertisements during the 19th and 20th century!

The Provençal advertisements « Les réclames »

The region of Provence is rich in industrial and agricultural products. Owing to this know-how which has been acquired throughout the centuries, the reputation of Provence is well established. Whatever you are looking into the industry, agriculture or gastronomy; you will find profusion of ideas which began in Provence.

With their know-how, the most Provençal industries were the cream of the crop in their domain. Thanks to a host of local artists and skilled printers, advertising quickly became a regional specialty. Here again, we will find an evocative collection of advertisements showing the image of a sunny and an authentic Provence. Many products have gained worldwide fame through advertisements. Making an exhaustive description would be very long, that’s why Calisson by Gilles has selected the 3 main products that will undoubtedly reminds you of Provence. And for sure, we have already talked about them within our previous posts in our blog.  

Olive oil

The olive tree is intimately linked to the Mediterranean civilization. It seems to have been brought to Provence by the Greeks, and archaeologists have found traces of oil mills since antiquity. Olive production developed in the 18th century, before experiencing a certain decline from the 1890s, with Provençal oil competing with products from other Mediterranean countries. Provençal olive growers tried to react by organizing the promotion of their oil through advertising and attractive presentation. 

Labels, metal cans, calendars present an idyllic image of traditional Provence, with women in Provencal costume and bucolic landscapes. As an example, we can mention brand Antonia from Salon de Provence, which in the 1920’s developed a campaign combining hints of Antiquity and traditional Provence. The brands Audemard, Lunel or Puget have also designed beautiful posters touting their products.

The soap of Marseille

Marseille soap is a product derived from Olive Oil. If the Gauls seem to have been the inventors of the first soaps, the Arabic people would be at the origin of those made from olive oil. Marseille, which specializes in this activity since the Middle Ages, still has 90 soap companies in the 1900s. For more information Calisson by Gilles recommends you read our October 2018 blog.

The soap of Marseille is not delimited to Marseille but to its surrounding area as well. Hence the ‘Savon de Marseille’ was also manufactured in Salon de Provence which could benefit from the oil of the Alpilles. Alpilles are a rural area north of Salon de Provence producing much olive oil. Soap manufacturers such as Morel and Fabre produced innovative and colorful advertising content that affected most consumers. They made the Savon de Marseille a trendy and fashionable product.




The iconography of Provence throughout various supports

Maps and plans

Provence has been a land of predilection for cartographers. The region is thus the object of a very large number of cartographic representations. Provence has always been borderland and independent in some manners. The region only became a part of France in the 16th century. For that  reason, the kingdom of France was drawing and defining the region throughout a wide and rich cartography activity for many years. The latter were sent by the civil and military authorities to make accurate surveys of coasts, cities and fortifications for political and defensive purposes, especially under the reign of Louis XIV. By now maps and plans of Provence have become a heritage of this beautiful region. 

Whatever you are a fortunate collector or not, you will be able to find your piece of Provence in the numerous trade fairs of the region. See our post of January 2018 talking about the Markets of Provence. 

Drawings, manuscripts or watercolors of Provencal maps and plans are certainly the hardest to find and are very much in demand. The most valuable are most often deposited in public funds and libraries. But we can still find some in antique shops. 


The rich Provencal iconography of course includes postcards. In a region that underwent radical changes in the 20th century, these documents are precious and invaluable testimonies of Provençal old times.

Postcards became a new type of correspondence. It was in the Austro-Hungarian Empire that the postcards were invented around 1869. In France their introduction seems linked to the consequences of the war of 1870; during  the partial occupation of French territory by the Prussian army. The simple white cards which were on circulation without envelope, were quickly decorated on one side by a picture.

From 1890 to the end of the WWI the postcard knows in France a true golden age. The process will continue after the war with the introduction of paid holidays and the growth of tourism.

An early land for tourism, Provence is a significant example of such an evolution, especially as the region is particularly rich in costumes and local traditions unknown elsewhere. The postcard was a new way to diffuse the Provençal way of life. Inhabitants of Provence are so proud of it and showed it in numerous ways, through writing, painting. Calisson by Gilles is for sure one of this proud ambassador, and that’s why we definitely invite you to taste our sweet Calissons. And you may find a vintage object of Provence with a Calisson on it! 


This post first appeared on French & Almonds Candy Blog By Cal, please read the originial post: here

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Les Réclames


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