LE VILLAGE DE MASGOT
FRANÇOIS MICHAUD
(1810-1890 | FRANCE)

Masgot is a pretty and tiny village in the municipality of Fransèches (Creuse department) in the middle of France.
A small guide dedicated to unusual places in France pushed me there (Itinéraire d’Art singulier en France): among the many hidden wonders, there was talk of this small village adorned with granite sculptures by the hand of François Michaud in the nineteenth century.
On a hot August day last year, therefore, I found myself walking through the bucolic streets of the place admiring houses and walls decorated with sculptures with a naive flavor depicting characters and animals.

Masgot è un grazioso e minuscolo villaggio del comune di Fransèches (dipartimento della Creuse) nel pieno centro della Francia.
A spingermi lì è stata una piccola guida dedicata ai luoghi insoliti in Francia (Itinéraire d’Art singulier en France): tra le tante meraviglie nascoste, si parlava di questo posto ornato di sculture di granito per mano di François Michaud nel XIX secolo. 
In una calda giornata d’agosto dello scorso anno, dunque, mi ritrovai a camminare tra le bucoliche stradine del posto ammirando case e muri decorati con sculture dal sapore naïf raffiguranti personaggi ed animali.

Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019

The slightly elevated village has watched over the valley since the 11th century, when “Masgoth” was mentioned in the cartulary of the priory of Blessac. François Michaud’s sculptures, made in the 19th century, were buried under the vegetation for a long period and were practically known only to the people of the village. It was only thanks to the intervention of the mayor of Francsèches, in the 80s of the twentieth century that a restoration operation was undertaken: together with the inhabitants of the village it was decided to clean and renew these sculptures, which are now in their original position. The Association des Amis de la Pierre de Masgot was therefore founded in 1987, and now manages the place. To date, the Center de la Pierre is also present, where stone cutting and sculpture stages are organized.

Il villaggio, leggermente sopraelevato, veglia sulla valle dal XI secolo, quando “Masgoth” venne menzionata nel cartulario del priorato di Blessac.
Le sculture di François Michaud, realizzate nell’800, sono state sepolte sotto la vegetazione per un lungo periodo ed erano praticamente note solo alle persone del villaggio. È solo grazie all’intervento del sindaco di Francsèches, negli anni ’80 del Novecento che si intraprese un’operazione di restauro: insieme agli abitanti del borgo si decise di pulire e rinnovare queste sculture, che ora si trovano nella loro posizione originale. Venne dunque fondata l’Association des Amis de la Pierre de Masgot nel 1987, e che ora gestisce il luogo. Ad oggi, è lì presente anche il Centre de la Pierre, dove vengono organizzati stage di taglio e scultura della pietra.

Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019

Few documents can inform us about the life of the author, François Michaud. His father was a bricklayer, while he was a farmer. He married at the age of 19 and the couple had four children.
It is known that he was a solitary and unfriendly character, but undoubtedly gifted with great imagination: his inspiration in the production of sculptures ranges from real animals to fantastic and emblematic characters. Surely nature has occupied an important place in its imagination, as well as the historical facts of the time: Napoleon 1st, Jules Grévy, Marianne, the imperial eagle are depicted in his sculptures, perhaps to leave traces of the most important characters of the his time (or to identify the preferences and passions of the same author).
The sculptures, in granite stone, were made between 1850 and 1880 and exhibited in some places in the village, so as to transform the whole community into an “outsider” environment.

Pochi documenti ci possono informare circa la vita dell’autore, François Michaud. Il padre era un muratore, mentre lui faceva il contadino. Si sposò all’età di 19 anni e la coppia ebbe quattro figli.
Si sa che era un personaggio solitario e poco amichevole, ma indubbiamente dotato di grande immaginazione: la sua ispirazione nella produzione di sculture va da animali reali a fantastici e personaggi emblematici.
Sicuramente la natura ha occupato un posto importante nel suo immaginario, così come i fatti storici dell’epoca: Napoleone 1°, Jules Grévy, la Marianne, l’aquila imperiale sono raffigurati nelle sue sculture, forse per lasciar traccia dei personaggi più importanti del suo tempo (o per identificare le preferenze e le passioni dello stesso autore).
Le sculture, in pietra granitica, sono state realizzate dal 1850 al 1880 circa ed esposte in alcuni posti del villaggio, tanto da trasformare l’intera comunità in un luogo “outsider”.

Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, François Michaud’s House, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, François Michaud’s House, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019
Le Village de Masgot, photo © Gloria Marchini, 2019

Le village de Masgot
23480 Fransèches,
dept Creuse, region Nouvelle Aquitaine, France

Useful links:
Website of the Association des Amis de la Pierre de Masgot
Outsider Environments Europe

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