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 Who is Blanche d’Antigny?

            Some of us know or used to know about her. It is surely the most ambiguous and the most controversial person in Martizay history.

       What are links with Martizay?

            Blanche d’Antigny was born the 9th of May 1840 at Martizay with the name of Marie Ernestine Antigny, daughter of Jean Antigny and Eulalie Florine Guillemain. She was born at the actual Bergeault Bakery, at the 1st floor according to the owner.

            Her father Jean Antigny was sacristan of our St Etienne church, according to the birth certificate of Marie Ernestine, and carpenter, according to other literary sources. His workshop doesn't exist anymore. It is what the common memory call « la forge » (smithy) and which collapsed. At the same place a more modern building is built up. It is the actual café Tricoche.

portait of Blanche d'Antigny

face of Blanche d'Antigny

Blanche d’Antigny is from crafts families living in the village. Her birth certificate shows the reality of crafts activities located and active in our village in 1840. Nowadays, these activities are less important but not have totally disappeared.

             Mr Jean Antigny moved to Paris leaving her wife and kids at Martizay in 1847. Later, Blanche d’Antigny's mother moves to Paris also. She entrusted her sister-in-law of Mézières en Brenne, Marie Radegonde married with Mr Charles Marche, with task of minding her children.

            Marie Ernestine alias Blanche d’Antigny grew in the Martizay streets and paths until she's 7 years old. TheWriter Guy Vauzat presents in his book Ms Mérigaud's testimony who is almost hundred-year-old while he wrote it:

             « It seems that I can still see her playing with our comrades and I. I was the eldest of the group. She was very nice milk-white face girl, golden-blond hair, lively, tall and large for her age. She didn't look like a <berlaude> [local expression for someone who is not very clever] I guarantee.  Greedy, like most of the kids, she used to bit some delicacy with some preference for the sugared almond. She was already interested in her appearance, for sure! Because her generous hair used to get away from her plaits, and used to flutter in the wind, the kid asked her cousin Clarisse Antigny to have her done with some cream, to have varnished and fixed hair like bohemian girls. One day the sweet violet philicome pot was empty, and Clarisse generously put some nuts oil on Blanche's hair. Blanche always run through the streets and paths coming back home for bed and lunchtime only. On Sundays, she was participating to the mass beside her father, singing the better she could. After the mass, boastful, she was showing us her white dress, her lacy hat, her blue ribbons. She already liked frills and flounces! »

 

In VAUZAT, Blanche d’Antigny, actrice et demi-mondaine, page 6

                     Bear in mind that the witness is almost hundred-years-old when she tells this story and there are 80 years between facts and testimony. The Writor may have use his way of writing to make Ms Mérigaud's testimony sounds better.

            These are links between Blanche d'Antigny and our dear little homeland

 

Who is she?

            In 1858, Blanche d’Antigny starts at the theatre at Paris. She is 18 years old! She is model for the painter Paul Baudry for the paint « La Madeleine pénitente » [«The penitent Madeleine»] (actually at Nantes museum).

        Meeting person grata of the theatre world in Parisians "grand cafés", she integrates quickly.

La Madeleine pénitente (Blanche d'Antigny is the model)

Blanche d'Antigny

           She follows a Russian lover to St Petersburg where she is acting. But she is thrown out of Russia by a tsarina order because of her behaviour. She is acting at Hamburg and at Paris. She competes and makes Léa Silly, Van Ghell and Hortense Schneider jealous. With more success she is acting for more important role. She is very famous in Paris.

            In a time where there is no TV, no radio, no movie only theatre and newspaper are matter. Blanche d’Antigny aura has to be compared with our contemporary movie stars. She is often the subject of newspaper articles in « Le Figaro », « Le Gaulois », « l’Eclipse » or « La Vie Parisienne ». She becomes rich in money and lovers.

 

            She participates as an ambulance woman to the siege of Paris in 1870 and she is at Versailles during the time of the Commune. Left by her banker-protector-lover, she goes abroad to make money. She is acting at  Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt. Back in Paris, she lives at the " Grand Hôtel du Louvre".

           She is ill. She has typhoid fever and dies the 30th of June 1874 at the 93 boulevard Haussmann building. It is one of the very much in the public eye area of Paris at the end of the XIX century. The mass was celebrated at St Augustine church in the 8èmedisctrict of Paris. She is buried at Père Lachaise cemetery.

 

Blanche d'Antigny ambulance woman in 1870

            But why is she in our common memory?

            Is it because of her artistic career? Is it because she was very popular?

           All these reasons are right but also because Emile Zola used Blanche d’Antigny's life to write one of his most famous episod of Rougon-Macquart story, his famous novel « Nana ».

condition of the chapel where is Blanche d'Antigny at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris

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