At first glance, La Place aux Fleurs in Dole, France, seemed a serene little square bordered by trim limestone block houses. But on closer examination, I decided there was more to the story. On one side of the plaza, three naked bronze figures huddled on a bench. The bronze sculpture was created in 1982 by artist Jens Boettcher. The title, “Commères,” translates to “The Gossips” in English. It’s not hard to imagine an abundance of gossip flying around this tiny village – small towns often thrive on it. But strangely, the figures sit with their backs to the square. Was the artist indicating that these particular gossips were shunned by their neighbors? Or perhaps their nudity symbolizes that those who are gossiped about often feel exposed by those who pretend to be their friends. I found it a puzzling piece of art, one that seemed even more sorrowful on a grey and rainy day. But it whetted my appetite. Over the next few days I found more than a little history and plenty of art as I roamed the narrow streets and alleyways of Dole.
If you find this tiny village in the Franche-Comté region of eastern France intriguing, you may also want to read about one of the “most beautiful villages in France, Baume-les-Messieurs.