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The hill of the two lovers

Date : Produced in Bolbec, first half of the 19th century | Medium : Red printing

On the canvas is an inscription under the scene of a marriage proposal: “Histoire de la Côte des deux Amans [sic]” (Story of the Hill of the Two Lovers). This legendary story comes from Eure and was told by Marie de France, a twelfth-century female poet. It was depicted in the nineteenth century in four prints by Alexandre Xavier Lebour, a specialist in popular and religious subjects who was born in Paris in 1801, based on the painted work of F. Charron. This series is titled “Histoire de la Côte des deux Amans [sic]” (Story of the Hill of the Two Lovers).

The textiles printmaker Philippe Wingaërt, whose signature “PH” can be seen in a tiny plaque beneath the hill, reproduced three of these prints:

- a young servant, Edmond, is violently in love with Caliste, the daughter of Rulphe, a baron in the Charlemagne court and lord of Pîtres and Pont-Saint-Pierre, who lives in a castle close to Rouen on the banks of the Andelle river. One day, when Rulphe is out hunting with his daughter in the valley, a wounded boar ploughs furiously into Caliste; the horse falls and she is about to die, when Edmond emerges and kills the boar (according to the print “Edmond saves Caliste’s life”).

- Caliste soon falls tenderly in love with her saviour, who then asks for her hand in marriage (according to the print “Caliste is promised to Edmond”). However, refusing to let his daughter marry a servant, the baron places an impossible condition on his approval: to carry her, without rest, to the top of the hill overlooking the castle.

- In the final scene (“Edmond climbs the hill, carrying Caliste”), Edmond climbs the slope with his precious cargo.

A fourth print, not reproduced here, is called “Love has triumphed”: with his immense courage, Edmond arrives at the summit, puts down his conquest, but falls, dead from fatigue. In pain, his beloved dies instantly as two doves fly away from a neighbouring hermitage, singing sadly. The repentant father has the bodies placed in the same coffin and, in place of the hermitage, erects the “Prieuré des deux Amants” (Priory of the Two Lovers), then dies of grief in his tower.

Today in Amfreville-sous-les-Monts, on top of the limestone cliff that still carries the graceful name of the “Côte des deux Amants”, the deteriorated priory has made way for a retirement home. The town of Romilly-sur-Andelle recently bought a series of five paintings by Normandy’s Paul Malençon (1817-1880), who came from the area and was also inspired by the quaint prints of Lebour.