The studio is located in the center of the village of Fontevraud l’Abbaye
All the works offered in several copies are multiplied using the 14th century technique known as “stencil illumination” or “Enluminure d’art au Pochoir”.
years in 2024 !
The stencils are designed, drawn, engraved and colored by hand.
Facing a park and adjoining a 13th century chapel, the studio is located in the center of the village of Fontevraud L’Abbaye, famous for its 12th century royal abbey, one of the largest in Europe. The village is in the heart of the Loire Anjou Touraine national park, of the Loire Valley classified as a world heritage site by UNESCO, within the Valley of the Kings.
Fontevraud l’Abbaye is 15 km from Saumur between Tours and Angers, accessible by train from Paris via Saumur or by motorway via Le Mans or Tours. The studio is open to the public and has an exhibition room inviting visitors to learn about this art thanks to the variety of works on display.
Illumination or the art of illuminating the text on a mobile support appeared in Egypt where painters were already illustrating the “book of the dead” on papyrus scrolls. The production of what was written and possibly illuminated during the Egyptian, Greek and Roman empires was then much greater than it would be in the Middle Ages.
However, it was during this period that monks and then lay artists, particularly from the 12th century and the development of universities, made it an art at its peak.
Book painting fell into disuse with the invention of printing. However, some peoples such as the Jews, mainly for the Haggadot (texts linked to the Jewish Passover), the Ethiopian Christians, the Armenians, etc. continued to calligraphy and illuminate manuscripts in quantity and quality.
The Muslim world, China and the Mayans also had significant production which highlights the universality of this art and its variety.
The art of honoring the word is also a modern art.
The stencil technique appeared in the 14th century, almost a century before the invention of the movable letter by Gutenberg, for coloring calendars, pious images and playing cards. The line is printed after having been engraved on wood. Today, when line printing is inevitable, typographic printing, engraving of the line in relief before inking and printing, is favored by the studio.
The cardboard covers or pochoirs were hardened then cut out with a canivet. At that time, it was a popular art often practiced at home in workshops and within the family.
The technique was used during the second half of the 15th century for coloring some incunabula, the name given to books printed until 1500, and from the 16th century on posters. The know-how gains in finesse and sophistication with the appearance of the first metal covers at the end of the 17th century.
Certainly less universal than painting on books, we can however note in the 19th century a very good production in Russia, Mexico, Europe and particularly in France where Paris had around a hundred studios at that time.
Although they also devoted themselves to the reproduction of works by great artists of the time, most of their activity in the first half of the 20th century was devoted to the coloring of art books printed at a price of a few hundred copies as well as fashion plates for great couturiers. We then speak of stencil art illumination or « enluminure d’art au pochoir » and the excellence of certain colorist illuminators and studios is sought after.
The Jacomet studio in France benefits from a reputation that goes beyond our borders.
The “Treatise on the Art of Stencil Illumination” or « Traité d’Art d’enluminure au pochoir » published in 1925 by Jean Saudé in 500 copies, the illustrations of which are colored by hand, is an international reference.
We can also note a more modest use of know-how for the manual coloring of postcards, wedding and birth announcements, menus, etc.
Mechanical multiplication techniques will sound the décline for stencil illumination. Today, Atelier Festina Lente is the last studio in France and Europe.
Techniques and materials
Points in common with the brush and the stencil, pigments and natural glues, pure cotton paper without cloning or acid, allow the colors and documents thus produced to have exceptional durability over time.
Gold leaves will enhance certain works with their brilliance. If feathers and brushes are the coloring tools for painting on books, the pompom brushes or brosses-pompon of the stencil-illuminator have a diameter of 35 to 54 millimeters.
The brushes are made with pork bristle in which the hairs are pulled out by hand, thus preserving the “flower of the hair”, guaranteeing careful, delicate and varied coloring. The base of the hairs is immersed in wax, the whole being surrounded by a piece of copper.
The pigment seeps into the bristles of the brush from the first use. Despite delicate cleaning, the first color used will influence the next. You therefore need one brush per color.
The covers are made of metal and engraved by hand using a canivet. You need 1 to 6 stencils per color and 10 to 60 stencils per picture.
After decomposing the picture, copying an old one or creating it, it is necessary to develop and draw as many drawings as there are necessary pochoirs. These must be perfectly designed and then engraved before coloring. Each pochoir requires between two and thirty hours of engraving depending on its sophistication and finesse.
Coloring a pochoir requires 2 to 90 minutes per copy. This time depends on the preparation of the color, the desired color effect, and the nature of the mask. (finesse, fragility, sophistication, etc.)
These various technical elements influence the handling of the pompom brush.
The subtleties of the gesture are therefore infinite and must be mastered and memorized before coloring the series.
The error cannot be corrected, it is not possible to go back. Stencils rarely authorize series of more than 150 copies. Depending on the intensity and desired consistency of the color, 1 to 3 passes per mask are necessary.
The works proposed by the studio required two months to three years of work for an average of 80 copies.
Fully manual coloring, cache by cache, copy by copy, ensures each of them is truly unique. Intricate and fine details of some works can be painted with a pen or brush.
All copies are checked one last time before being numbered and signed.
The specificities of stencil art illumination, the quality of the materials and the absence of mechanization mean that today and since 1994, the works signed Richard Leray-Atelier Festina Lente delight demanding collectors in around thirty countries. and lovers of art printing and illumination for whom tradition and authenticity are the guarantees of the quality they are looking for.
Inventor of professional training, it was registered under number 52 49 02098 49 with the Prefect of the Pays de la Loire Region on May 23, 2005.
Although it has been called differently since the 14th century, “story maker”, dominotier, illuminator-colorist, my activity is today included on the list of 281 Art professions by the INMA, National Institute of Métiers d’Art, under the name of Imagier au Pochoir.