Our 6 km walk on Thursday to the medieval village of Montpezat-de-Quercy took us past fields of giant upright sunflowers turning their sea of faces to follow the sun. In the middle of the rolling sunny fields, French farmhouses drowsed, cooling behind their blue window shutters. We enjoyed another blue-sky day in a week of wonderful weather. The narrow country road wound about, with quite a bit of uphill, not so much downhill to compensate, and not much room for both us and the occasional passing car. Where trees lined the road, there were signs posted usually saying "reserved for deer hunting" (a highly-regarded rich-in-tradition French sport), but once I noticed a sign indicating an area reserved for truffle hunting.
Montpezat is a protected historic city, due primarily to its remaining 14th-century college and chapel, where the apse is filled with a long 16th-century tapestry relating the 13 temptations and miracles in the life of St Martin. The tapestry hangs unprotected except by the dark, so after depositing our 2 euros to turn on the dim lights, we were rewarded with a close-up view of the intricately woven designs and remarkably well-preserved colors. Our guide related the various temptations, pointing out the devil in many panels, along with the "scribe" who inserted himself often, too, identifiable in his black hat.
. . . taking photos of the chapel on the ramp down from the priest's home . . .
After a refreshing picnic in a small park next to the priest's house (the old priest is retiring and will be the last), we continued our weaving lesson with a visit to the village studio of a retired but still active weaver, Janine Dassonval. She is one of the last remaining practitioners of le basse lice or low-warp horizontal weaving in France. During her career, she told us, she collaborated with French artists like Jean Cocteau, Jean Lurçat, Commère et Volti to transform their paintings into tapestries. Three years older than I, sitting upright at her large floor loom which she warps and wefts herself, Mme Dassonval explained why it can take her over 2000 hours to hand weave and cross over the wool threads to blend a beautiful wall hanging, plus another 200 hours to tie off the loose threads on the back. Her current project is an Aubusson-style tapestry full of soft blues, greens, and earth tones, proceeding from a color enlargement and her drawn cartoon slipped under the threads for placement.