August 25, 2009

Hurfane, Les Jardins de la Feuilleraie / Feuilleraie Gardens

picture courtesy of  Sophie Lepetit 
from her weblog

Covering an area of around 300 m² (3229 sq ft) a garden, located in the Perche region in France is all mosaic.

Life and works

Renée Bodin (b. 1927), who prefers to be called Hurfane, all her life had the ambition to do some creative mosaic project, probably inspired by her mother who also made mosaics.

Hurfane, who had a job in Paris as a teacher of French and classic languages, in the late 1970s acquired a house with a garden in the small community of Harponvilliers, in the Perche area in France, some 40 kms from Chartres.

And then in 1980 she started the project she had always dreamed of. Because in the first years she was still teaching, she could initially only work on the mosaics in the weekends, but once retired - in 1992 - she could full time be active in transforming the area around the house into an art environment.

Hurfane did everything herself. As she said
Je faisais le ciment moi-même. J’ai appris à bétonner quand des ouvriers sont venus faire des travaux chez moi. Ils se sont moqués parce que je voulais jouer au maçon. Le ciment ce n’est pas difficile, c’est comme un gâteau avec de la farine (I made the cement myself. I learned how to make concrete when workers came to work at my house. They made fun of me because I wanted to play the mason. The cement is not difficult, it's like a cake with flour) 

this picture and the next one (2008) 
courtesy of Brigitte, Flickr 

The garden got two sectors, a rose one, with mosaics of animals, flowers and all kinds of country life.

At the back side of the house is the blue one, with elements of the universe, such as the sea, the stars, the heavens (as in the next picture).

In 2000 the site was  declared a monument (Patrimoine National du XXième siècle, 20th century national heritage). From 2007 on it was owned by the Association of Perche communities, that takes care of the premises. The site is also member of the Chateaux de France organisation.

In 2018, sculptor Jessica Straus from Boston, USA, visited the site and met Hurfane, who at that time was in her early 90s. Jessica wrote an impression of the site in her weblog Quirk (see documentation) and she was clearly impressed by the mosaic work in blue on the back of the house, which reminded her:     
It was as if Hurfane’s vision had catapulted itself from human’s puny little concerns  to the vastness of earth’s surfaces and finally to the infinite universe

In February 2022, the Association of Perche communities approved the sale of the house and the garden to Soline Lemaire, who was previously (2016-2018) already in charge of both the maintenance of the site and the care of Renée Bodin, who can continue to live in the house. 

Some documentation
* Review and pictures (summer 2010) on the website of Sophie Lepetit
Article (July 2018) in French newspaper l'Écho républicain
* Article (December 2019) by Jessica Straus Creating an Ocean, One Blue Tile at a Time on her weblog
* Article (February 2022) in a regional newspaper about the sale to Soline Lemaire

* Video by Cricrimary1 (3'32", September 2010, YouTube)


first published August 2009, last revised July 2022

Les jardins de la Feuilleraie
28480 Harponvilliers, dept Eure-et-Loir, region Centre-Val de Loire, France
can be visited in summer,
April 15 - November 1 


  1. Hi Henk !
    I've been very absent for the past month or so while on vacation, and now am catching up on what you've been doing these past several weeks... wow, I can see you've been busy ! And no end of fascinating subjects that you have been digging up from all over for us...

    It never ceases to amaze me how some of the people you have reported on produce these incredibly intricate works of art, often taking years or decades to complete them, yet perservering, driven by some sort of urge to create a monumental work which will outlive them ; seeking some measure of immortality ? Or just fulfilling a compulsion to create ? Fascinating in any case. This lady must have some Roman empire blood in her veins, the Romans did alot of mosaic works all over... while in Lebanon and Syria a couple of years ago saw some beautiful examples.

    It is always a great pleasure to come and visit your site, to see the fruits of your research and read your thoughtful essays on these varied and wonderful creations.
    Very best wishes...

  2. Hi Owen, Hope you had a nice time being on holdiday. I did like very much to follow your advertures in Brittany, posting on a variety of subjects, all of them very interesting and well written. I could not resist commenting on the "vol des artichauts", that is such an interesting happening, wow, wished I could have been there, especially because I do like very much the sound of celtic music that is produced by these small breton companies of players, like the three that were in het artichaut competition.
    Thanks for your comments on this post (and some former ones). The mosaic works of Mme Hurfane indeed might be inspired by the mediterrenean (her mother stayed in Algeria and made mosaics too). I have seen wonderful examples of maroccan mosaic works as they are used for example in decorating bathrooms (beautiful combinations of blue colors...).
    I hope to go on for some time with my blog. Like to do it very much and feel happy if I happen to come along some site I did not know about, and sharing this with others who are interested in this specific world.
    Wish you all the best, have a good weekend.