Frederic Levesque: An Artist Inspired by his Normandy Home

My uncle, Frederic Levesque, spent most of his life at Miserai until his passing in 2010. He was a man who loved his home and got such enjoyment and inspiration from his surroundings. His love for the forest and nature in particular stands out in his work. Constantly smiling, telling jokes and singing, he was truly a joy to be around.

fredericlevesque_400

Known for his imaginative, Gothic fairy tale sculptures, Frederic first exhibited at the Grand Palais in 1987. A graduate of the highly regarded école Des Beaux-Arts in Paris, whose esteemed graduates include Degas, Delacroix, Fragonard, Ingres, Monet, Moreau, Renoir, Seurat, and Sisley, he went on to become famous worldwide for his work as an illustrator and avant-garde sculptor.

In the sculpture below, one can see how Frederic was inspired by his surroundings by looking at his take on the pesky moles that occasionally decide to make Miserai’s lawn their home!

mole

Frederic’s creations can be visited in the barn up on the mezzanine at Miserai:

mezzanine1

mezzanine5

His work showed his love for his native region of Normandy, but he also brought in worldwide themes, making his work universal. He brought in themes from all over art history — from the Middle Ages and 18th-century French fairy tales to French film spoofs. He also created parodies of various works of motion picture art, including Georges Melies’ A trip to the Moon (1902) and W. Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922). Frederic contributed more than 50 truly unique works of art to Design Toscano. From a submarine engulfed by a giant squid and an actual smoke-breathing dragon called Bessemer to an alligator lunching on his caretaker.

The hunt room at Miserai is filled with his art – from the hand carved fireplace to the hunting scene which adorns the rooms walls.

img_1888      fresque1

His designs were done in a style that was truly Frederic: proportionally exaggerated and comically robust. He was truly one of a kind.

sinkinglarge_tn

You can see more of his creations on his website: http://miserai.com/fred/index.html

A Personal WWII Anecdote from Jerome Levesque at Miserai

During World War II, Miserai was at the heart of the local French resistance. Jerome Levesque, my great uncle, graduated from the prestigious Saint-Cyr military school to become Lieutenant Jerome Levesque and became actively involved in the French war campaign upon his return to Miserai.

liberation

In March of 1943 weapons were parachuted to a secret location where Jerome Levesque collected them in order to secure the area and train his men. He then proceeded to hide the weapons in a barn in the woods – known as the Poussiniere – which can still be visited today. The Poussiniere used to be the home of Miserai’s caretaker which had been abandoned for many years. Some how, on the morning of June 5th, the Gestapo got wind of this secret weapons drop and began making their way to Miserai. Little did they know, my great uncle had a feeling that they were coming, possibly tipped off, and moved the weapons minutes before their arrival.

depot

The Gestapo have Miserai surrounded, and force Jerome’s father, the owner of Miserai, Judicael Levesque, to take them to the weapons hiding place at gun point.  Judicael was unaware that his son had moved the weapons moments earlier, and so, he begins the longest ten minute walk of his life, believing that this is the end. Once the Gestapo find the weapons, they will kill them all.

The relief he must have felt when the weapons were nowhere to be found must have been indescribable.  There are many Levesque’s, myself included, who are here today thanks to my great uncle Jerome’s quick thinking!

prise

Jerome Levesque’s personal account of that day:

The Gestapo and militia are occupying Miserai and using the estate as a base to search for weapons. When questioned by the Germans, my father has to be quick and come up with fast and credible answers: “My son Jerome is the black sheep of the family,he rarely is present at Miserai, when he leaves, he never telle us where he is going!” Finding nothing near the chateau, militia and Gestapo decide to expand their investigation and force my father to take them to the Brotz watermill at gunpoint, then to la Poussinière. La Poussinière is the former home of Miserai’s caretaker that had been abandoned for several years. My father knew I hid the weapons there, in the barn next to the main house. He also knew he would immediately be shot should the Germans find them. He thought his life had come to an end. Fortunately, driven by a bad feeling, I removed the guns and ammunition from the barn 1/2 hour earlier to some bushes fifty meters away. To my father’s surprise and great relief the weapons were never found.

Miserai – A Hunting History

Miserai was purchased in 1928 by my great grandfather Judicaël Levesque.

judicael

My grandfather, Martial Levesque, wrote a piece on the history of Miserai as a hunting  property – see below. He was always passionate about hunting the wild boar. This was, and is still, a very important part of our family’s history and traditions. In this article, he discusses the Levesque’s involvement in the origins of the “Vautrait du Perche” – a big game hunting organisation in Normandy. Their slogan is “Ecoute a la tete”: listen to the head of the pack.

martial_350

Although in french, the website of the Vautrait du Perche has some wonderful photos of the hunt:  http://vautraitduperche.voila.net/photos.html .  The hunts are strictly regulated – as wild boars have no natural predators, their population numbers must be monitored. If their population was left unchecked, this would cause great ecological damage to the forests.

The love and tradition of the wild boar hunt is passed down through the generations. The hunters have great respect for the forest as well as the animals and must learn the boars behavioural patterns, how to know where to look, and how to follow the signs which will lead them to their target – with the aid of the hounds of course. It is truly a beautiful sight to see the pack running through the forest on a lovely morning in the countryside followed by the hunters dressed in their blue and gold uniforms.

piqueu_et_le_maitre_d_equipage

Photo credit: http://vautraitduperche.voila.net/photos.html

My gradfather’s piece on Miserai:

My father Judicaël always loved the countryside and its forests because he was born in Paimpont. He was looking around to purchase a wooded property, when during a trip between Marcouville, Eure and Pont-Forêt in Britanny, he had the opportunity to acquire Miserai in 1928.
At the time, my brothers and I were students with the Jesuits inEvreux but we spent all our holidays at Miserai. We werefascinated by hunting both with shot guns as well as on horseback with hounds.
The war came, separating me from my family for a longmobilization and captivity of five years.
In 1947, after the war, I moved to Miserai where I still live today. 

It is impossible for me to speak aboutMiserai without mentioning the origins of the “Vautrait du Perche” a big game hunting organization dedicated to chasing wild boars with hounds. I was one of the first witnesses and active members since the very beginning.
My father brought to Miserai hounds donated by Régine, the only daughter ofCount Alphonse de Falandre who died just before the war.
Later on, more hounds joined the pack in Miserai’s kennel when the Baron d ‘Armela, a neighbor, enlisted in
the U.S. Air Force during the war of 39/45 and as a result left his hounds to my father.
After the war, my father started hunting again in the woods surrounding Miseraiand joined forces with another hunter and neighbor in the person of JeanRenouard Larivière.
At that time, they hunted on a small scale with a few friends armed with shotguns who killed boars right out of the lair.
I wasn’t keen on this type of hunting, so one day, I decided to show up at the meet wearing the traditional dress code used by formal hunt clubs or “equipage”.
Surprisingly, my father found it quite to his liking, and we decided to get a team together to start our new “equipage”.
We first had to decide what coat colors to wear. During my wanderings in Parisrue Richelieu, I stopped at the garment store Prud’homme” where they showedme good quality material. I brought back royal blue and buff samples to Miserai
.

My parents invited the Larivières for dinner in order to decide what type of outfit we should adopt. Everyone seemed to agree with my choices when SimoneLariviere said softly in front of my father could we enhance the outfit withstripes?” and my father said forcefully “absolutely not!”. Finally, we compromised and the stripes remained on the vest.
As far as the logo or “Bouton” is concerned, my father had a
small bronze statue of a wild boar and suggested the idea of ​​a boar jumping into a belt with the motto “Ecoute à la tete” or “Listen to the head of the pack.”
The hunting horn fanfare
«la Miserai» was composed by my mother. Later on at the insistence ofseveral members, the name was changed to “Les Echos du Perche.”

The “Vautrait du Perche” was born.

Gradually my father let me organize and run the hunts. I got married in 1952 and my wife, excellent horseback rider participated in all the hunts alongside me.
In 1955, the hounds of
Jean Renouard Larivière joined forces with Miserai’s pack. My sister Martine married during the summer of 1958, and my father decided to pass on to me the position of master of the hounds, in agreement with Jean Larivière.


During the four years that followed, we caught an average of thirty boars per season. In 60-61, 33
were caught out of 36 hunt days. I was
launching and running a pack of 40 hounds, hunting 6 timesa month.

In 1962, my wife and I decided to move to Paris for the education of our children. Luckily my brother Emmanuel and Jean Larivière decided to continue the momentum, and the”Vautrait du Perche” became what it is today.
Thanks to their hard work and the hard work of Emmanuel’s sons as well as all the other members, our “Equipage” is today one of the most established and recognized big game hunting organization in France.

Although unable to ride for a long time, and walking with difficulty, mypassion for hunting is such that both my wife and I continue to follow the hunts by car twice a week during hunting season.

Renovation of Miserai’s XVIIth Centrury Watermill – The Plan

Located down a dirt road about a ten minute walk from Miserai, our XVIIth century watermill is our next renovation project. Our dream is to turn this watermill into a beautiful, rustic four bedroom home available to rent in addition to the current accommodation in the Chateau and guest house.

le_moulin

010 (1)

We want to restore the mill to its former glory by adding on a functioning mill wheel underneath the water fall situated at the side of the house. In order for the mill wheel to provide electricity, we need to calculate how many liters of water per minute are produced from the waterfall. The mill wheel would require 550 liters per minute in order to produce 100 watts of electricity. If we have any less than this, our mill wheel will have to remain purely decorative – although still a lovely addition to the charm of the mill!

cascade

Located right beside the watermill is a small barn where we plan to add four more rooms once the renovations on the mill are completed. This little mill is the ideal place to get away from everything, and have peace and quiet while you fish on the pond just in front of the house.

etang_de_brotz

At your request, you can also have access to our barbecue and have a picnic in an area that makes you feel like have entered the world of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs!

2eme_cascade_au_moulin la_table_de_pique-nique_au_moulin remorque_barbecue

We will keep you updated as renovations continue, but for now I would like to ask your opinion on the color of the mill wheel…. Should it be bright red or a simple wooden, traditional wheel? Leave your comments below!

8ftpic1 Wayside_Grist_Mill

D-Day Normandy Beaches

Located 62 miles from Miserai, many of our visitors make their way over to visit the sites where 156,000 Allied troops landed during WWII along the coast of Normandy on June 6th, 1944 : D-Day.

270658_10100256028733252_5153321_n

Code names of the five principal landing points of the Allied invasion : Omaha Beach, Sword Beach, Gold Beach, Utah Beach, Juno Beach

Nicknamed “Bloody Omaha” and defended by the German 352nd Division, WWII soldiers recall Omaha beach as being red with blood after the battle as it was the bloodiest of the D-Day beaches. Among the dead/wounded/missing were 2,400 U.S. troops.

263815_10100256027640442_856769_n

The American military cemetery at Colleville is open to visit from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from April 15 to September 15, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year. This 172.5 acre cemetery contains the graves of 9,387 troops. Within the cemetery, you will also see the “Walls of the Missing” on which the names of 1,557 military troops are inscribed.

269515_10100256029546622_7133478_n 261861_10100256034451792_2320810_n

Guided tours are available, The American Sector 1 tour covers the following areas:

Learn more about tours here : http://www.d-daytours.com/

Mortagne-au-Perche : A historical town to visit during your stay at Miserai

Built on the slopes of a hill in the south-east Orne department of southern Normandy, the Perche’s capital town of Mortagne is located 12 miles from Miserai. With houses dating back to the middle ages, walking the medieval street of this town is like going back in time. Here, you can visit some of its historical monuments spared from destructive forces of World War II such as the Saint Francois convent, the Notre Dame church, and the Town Hall.

The Saint Francois covent was built for the Clarrisses congregation in 1505 by Margeurite de Lorraine who was the Duchess of Alencon and Countess of the Perche. Originally located outside of the city near the gallows at that time, the entrance to the cloister is now located at the hospital of Mortagne.  Inside, you will also find the chapel of the Clarrisses, built around the same time although destroyed during the revolution and restored in the 1800s. The cloister is the oldest one in the Orne department and can be accessed by following signs to the entrance of the hospital of Mortagne.

Mortagne has many shops as well as a Saturday market with local and regional products for sale.

Read more about Mortagne here : http://www.ot-mortagneauperche.fr/en/history-and-monuments

Photos of the Saint Francois Convent taken from the following website : http://www.petit-patrimoine.com/fiche-petit-patrimoine.php?id_pp=61293_6

mortagne_france_1 61293_6_photo1_g

Welcome to Miserai!

Chateau de Miserai is a lovely XVIIth century estate located in Normandy, France. The chateau and the barn have both been recently renovated in 2014 to become the idea place to host any kind of social event, including destination weddings /business seminars/birthdays etc. It is also a place you can rent out if you would like to spend a nice quiet week away from the hustle and bustle of city life. If you decide to take a break from the peaceful atmosphere of the surrounding 350 acre park, Paris is conveniently a 75 mile drive away.

Miserai is  surrounded by beautiful historical sites. The medieval Château de Gannes, which was destroyed in 1428 by the British, is located alongside Miserai’s woods. Although this chateau is on private property, it can be observed from the public road. Prior authorization from the owner must be granted if you wish you walk along the grounds.

According to the legend, the surrounding swamps rendered the fortress impossible to invade. However, it owed its destruction to the duplicity of the châtelain’s daughter who fell hopelessly in love with an English captain, betraying her own people. Known as “La Dame Blanche”, this love-struck woman lowered the drawbridge for the enemy to enter the grounds, which resulted in the ruins which remain to this day. To our British guests, we say: “Don’t worry, we won’t hold it against you!”

This short film was shot by young students on the property depicting the legend of “La Dame Blanche”.