Next up on our tour of the French countryside is Ménerbes, another breathtaking commune atop the Luberon mountains. With a population just under a thousand people, the small town feel is painfully cute in all the best ways.
British author, Peter Mayle, settled in Ménerbes in the 1980s. His most popular book, A Year in Provence, brought many new tourists to the region. The locals say he ruined the once sleepy town.
Why not make a daily pleasure
out of a daily necessity.
-Peter MayleA Year in Provence
In the 1500s, the village was the site of a battle between Catholics and Protestants in the French Wars of Religions. During which the citadel was hit with over 900 cannonballs. Eventually the Protestants surrendered, but not without draining the coffers of both the town and the pope.
Perfectly mauve sneakers, fit for crunching leaves and navigating cobblestone roads.
French photographer, painter, and poet, Dora Maar, also lived in Ménerbes. As lover and muse of Picasso, notoriety for her private life overshadowed her work.
Maar is most commonly known for inspiring Picasso’s Weeping Woman. In fact, she was frequently the subject of his paintings–the mood often melancholy. Maar didn’t agree with his representation of her. When asked she said, “all portraits of me are lies. They’re Picassos. Not one is Dora Maar.”
Their relationship (like most of Picasso’s relationships) was turbulent. He was abusive and relished in her sadness. She however, deepened his understanding of politics and taught him about photography.
“Here you have this very independent, extremely proud young woman who is a well-known, respected photographer in Paris and goes off on her own to underprivileged neighbourhoods to take pictures. I can see how she’s determined to seduce Picasso – because she is beautiful, a snob and haughty, she wants to be at the top and will do anything to get there. And then she’s extremely flattered when she finds herself in the position of ‘official mistress’.
As for Picasso, he is dazzled by this intelligent woman. It’s the first time he has ever shared his artistic life with an intellectual. Very soon, however, he finds that she’s getting in the way, she’s too imposing. Picasso – who as a child of the 19th century is a macho, a Spaniard – feels the need to crush her.
So, despite Dora Maar’s very independent, modern and perhaps feminist side, she suffers. Yet, at the same time, she seems to take pleasure in being dominated.” -Brigitte Benkemoun, writer who pieced together a memoir and biography about the artist after finding her old address book on ebay
Maar eventually had a nervous breakdown and received electroshock therapy from the controversial psychiatrist Jacques Lacan. Picasso, her then ex-lover, bought her a house in Ménerbes where she retired and began her painting career.
Speaking of incredible female forces,
Ménerbes was named for Roman goddess Minerva.
Did you know winter is black truffle season?
After Christmas each year, the city hosts a truffle fair.
In fact, you can go for a tasting at Maison de la Truffe et du Vin, pictured above.
Ménerbes is also home to the Corkscrew Museum, a private collection of over a thousand corkscrews. Yves Rousset-Rouard, the owner, is a film producer who also served as the mayor of the commune for 19 years.
A sculpture by French artist Joël Canat who lives half the year in Paris, half the year in Ménerbes.
Well, what do you think of this Provincial historic little spot?