Like the scent of lavender and mimosas, the shade of pines and olive trees, and the reflection of sun on the sea, the cicada is one of the most iconic symbols in the south. The author La Fontaine called her lazy, while the Mediterraneans think she’s a goddess!
A lucky charm
From late June to mid-September, her song celebrates summer, heat, laidback living and well-being. For over a century, her presence on a doorway or terrace wall has made her a lucky charm. In 1895, the Aubagne ceramics maker Louis Sicard, nicknamed “The Father of Cicadas” created the now-widely (and very poorly) copied decorative cicada, after the director of Les Tuileries de Marseille tile factory asked him to design a gift for his customers. His original creation continued to be produced at the same workshop and with the same loving care by Raymond Amy – a close friend of the family and heir to the tradition, followed by his daughter Florence.
The origins of this must-have Provence souvenir
Louis Sicard created a ceramic version of the insect, apparently perched on an olive branch, or – more likely – on a jujube branch. The branch is engraved with these words by Frédéric Mistral: “Lou souleù mi fa canta” – sunshine makes me sing. His cicadas were such a success that Sicard began mass-producing them. Little by little, the genius ceramics maker dreamed up different versions of his insect, perched on a multitude of objects made at his workshop. Wall vases were in fashion at the time so he created a very popular cicada vase. Ceramic cicadas were all the rage until 1960, when they went out of fashion. Enthusiasm for them was rekindled in the nineties.
The legend of the cicada
Angels descended from the sky and arrived in Provence in midsummer, in blazing heat. They were astonished to see abandoned fields and not a soul in sight. They went to visit the local priest, who was enjoying a siesta. They woke him up and asked him why everything was deserted. The priest explained that it was so hot that people couldn’t work out in the fields during the day and went to sleep in the shade while the sun was beating down. The angels went back up to heaven and explained the situation to God, who sent down a little creature with golden wings to sing at the top of its voice in summer and prevent workers from dozing off instead of working!