“La Canso” or “Song of the Albigensian crusade” Prints by Stephane Lalou

A series of limited edition Aquatints that takes us back to the heart of the tragic events of the crusade through art.

Stephan & Blandine Lalou are the artists who recreated the drawings which appear in the unique manuscript, La Canso, created around the year 1219.

La Canson or The Song of the Albigensian Crusade is an old Occitan epic poem narrating events of the Albigensian Crusade from March 1208 to June 1219. It is the only record in the Occitan language and one of three primary sources of content on the crusade against the Cathars. Modelled on the Old French chanson de geste, it was composed in two distinct parts: William of Tudela wrote the first towards 1213, and an anonymous author finished the account.

The original book is preserved at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BNF), containing the text of the greatest poetic work of the Occitan Middle Ages “La Canso”. This chronicle in verse which retraces the 10 years of crusade against the Cathars is embellished with numerous illustrations that Lalou brought out of the shadows by recreating them as Aquatints.

The author of the first 131 verses, Guilhem de Tudela, began writing circa 1210 and ceased by 1213. Approving the crusade and condemning the heretics, Guilhem defended, however the southerners whose orthodoxy was unquestionable. Several years later, a second anonymous author continued Guilhem’s story. Sympathetic to the southern cause, this author recounted in detail those events to which he was an eye-witness; his style more animated, and much more dialogue is recorded. His story stops in the midst of a description of the 1219 siege of Toulouse.

The manuscript is unfinished: the text is interrupted in June 1219, and the illustrations have only been roughly sketched in graphite, never coloured… Thirteen ghosts of illuminations, thirteen calls through time for artists of today.

Included below are the sketches from the illustrated pages of the book and alongside the limited edition Aquatints created by Stephane Lalou and Blandine.

Stephane Lalou was a pioneer of printing techniques and worked with many other famous artists. His wife Blandine also an artist worked with him closely. They worked with Jean-Michel Folon to perfect the printing process for his art some which they exhibited in The Gallery at The MET. For over 30 years Lalou printed Folon’s work on his presses.

This series of engraving are on vellum Arches paper, were printed on Stephan Lalou’s own press.

Blandine explains “The idea for this art, created with Stéphane Lalou, was conceived in Montségur with Georges Serrus who put us in contact with Henri Gougaud; the latter had undertaken to translate La Canso”.

“Our work, our crusade, lasted two years,” she continues, “the main thing was to reproduce these sketches and highlight them, not in the traditional sense of illumination with several colours, but according to the more sober technique of aquatint: we use a single colour of which we exploit all the values”.

The result is magnificent and was part of commemoration of the 800th anniversary of the crusade against the Albigensians.

If you would like to read a translated English version of La Canso I am including the PDF just click here. It describes in great details and sometimes first hand accounts of the battles and sieges of the Albigensian Crusade.

If you are interested in purchasing one of these prints, we have one of each available.  Click for details.

Self Portrait Guillaume de Tudele Auteur La Chanson Limited Edition Print Stephane Lalou – La Canson

Couple who appear also on the first page to the right of Guilhaume.

Sacking of Beziers

The Taking of Carcassonne

Battle of St Martin Lalande

The Battle of Montgey

Bataille de Muret

Siege of Moissac

Concile de Latran

Siege de Beaucaire

Raymond VI in Toulouse

The Crosses at Toulouse

Capture of Marmande

Bataille de Baziege