Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Illustration Friday- Save - Caterina Ségurana

I couldn't decide what to paint for the Illustration Friday topic "save' to start with. I was going to do something along the lines of bees storing honey or maybe squirrels hiding nuts but I really wanted to do something more dramatic.

My next idea was to do something with Grace Darling , the English woman who became famous for rescuing people from a shipwreck when the sea was too rough to launch a lifeboat.
Grace helped her lighthouse keeper father row a small boat called a coble out to the wreck and 9 people were rescued.
I was still thinking about the Grace Darling idea when I came across the monument dedicated to one of the local heroines from Nice which made me change my mind.

Her name is Catarina Ségurana in Nissart, the local Nice language, and Catherine Ségurane in French.

Catarina Ségurana was a local washerwoman [bugadiera or lavandière] at a time when washing was done by hand in rivers and streams or publicplaces with very basic facilities called lavoirs .

Lavoirs are generally covered areas with a communal trough with a diverted stream or water running through the centre. Some have facilities to burn wood to provide the cinders which were added to the wash to whiten and de-grease it. This is a public lavoir from the village of Le Broc.

Rich people employed the washerwomen to do the work because it was both exhausting and time consuming. The washing had to be pounded and soaked and rinsed , washed again and then laid out to dry in the sun.

Washerwomen had rough calloused hands due to the constant immersion in waster and exposure to the poor quality washing soaps and lye derived from the cinders.

I already knew the basics of Catarina Ségurana's story and knew that there was controversy about her importance and whether or not she really existed.

Many guidebooks report that Catarina Ségurana was a semi-legendary heroine famous from scaring away the Franco-Turkish enemy during the Siege of Nice in 1543. Often, her method of repelling the enemy is given as 'showing off her ample bare buttocks' [mooning] Mooning and mocking the enemy by exposing oneself does have a long history but this doesn't seem to be Catarina Ségurana's real story.

Instead, Catarina Ségurana inspired the Niçois when she seized one of the Turkish flags after whacking the standard bearer with her battoir [linen beater ] -a kind of wooden paddle she would have use to beat the cloth as she washed it. During the struggle with the standard bearer , local legend adds that Catarina's 'hidden parts' were exposed and this was perceived as an additional indignity for the invaders.
Later on in the seige , two more Turkish standards were seized and this destroyed the morale of the invading troops.

Catarina Ségurana's bravery is honoured by the city of Nice each year in a ceremony on the 25th of November when a wreath is placed on her monument.

My illustration depicts Catarina Ségurana holding her wooden battoir [linen beater] with the captured Turkish flag in the background.

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