Browsing through an Antiques Fair one day, Peter came across a wonderful Art Deco style bronze head of a Briard!    He couldn't believe his eyes, and made some enquiries of the stand holder.     He knew nothing about the piece, other than it was acquired in France at an Antiques Market, and was pleased that at least one bit of information had been found out - the breed of dog.     So the bronze was bought for me as a 2014 Christmas present, and the research then began!

I got in touch with a local historical group in France who have done some research into the life of Joanny Durand, the sculptor of the piece, and they have furnished me with a some interesting information. He was someone very celebrated in his own region, but somewhat "forgotten" nationally.

He was born in July 1886 at Boen-sur-Lignon, studied engraving locally, and then trained in Paris at the Nationale des Beaux Arts, specialising in sculpture. Although badly injured during the 1st World War, he continued this passion. After the war he wanted to honour his dead soldier comrades, and made monuments to the many dead in local surrounding towns of his region as well as doing other monuments in the "Department de la Seine". Partly in Paris, and partly in his home province. he made a number of medals of note.

But he had other dimensions to his character. An ardent defender of regionalism, he sang about "Forez" (his home area) in Parisien Cabarets; often returned to his homeland; participated in the artistic life of Montmartre; created a local newspaper; wrote articles, fairy tales and poems.

In 1940 he returned to his family home where he wrote a poem dedicated to his dog, a briard Bitch called Piouza. This is a name in local dialect which means "star" in English or "Etoile" in French.

The bronze I have therefore, is actually one he did of his own Briard, Piouza!    Several plaster copies exist apparently, but the bronze itself is a "one off".

So mystery solved, thanks to some helpful and interested local people near to St. Etienne. It makes the piece so much more special to me.

Poem "Piouza" (to my Briard bitch) by Joanny Durand

Ce que l’on dit, ce que l’on pense,
ordre ou desir, geste ou refrain,
ma Briarde, mieux qu’un humain,
peut tout comprendre avec aisance.

Elle est mechante ..., en apparence
et demande en lechant ma main,
plus de caresses que de pain
sans attendre de recompense,

Ses yeux, que l’amitie seconde
refletent la bonte du monde
qui ne vaut pas le coeur d’un chien,

J’en suis vexe parce qu’en somme,
quand son regard cherche le mien,
.... je ne suis pas fier d’etre un homme.