Maison natale de Rose Valland à Saint-Etienne-de-Saint-Geoirs (Isère)

Birthplace of Rose Valland in Saint-Etienne-de-Saint-Geoirs (Isère), Françoise Flamant, 2000, color photograph, 13 x 10 (cm), private collection, © Françoise Flamant.

Rose Valland hails from a humble background. The only daughter of Francis Paul Valland, born 1864, a wheelwright and blacksmith, and Rosa Maria Viardin, born 1870, housewife, she was born on 2 November 1898.

She had little to say about her past: “of that childhood I wish to tell no more…” content to recall “the village school” and “papa’s bidding”. There are but few traces of her childhood. A strict father, absent of an evening, off to the café… A father who may have been fond of painting…

Born after the Jules Ferry Laws establishing free education for all, Rose Valland benefitted from the social mobility it afforded. A bright student she was oriented towards the École normale, the teacher training college, there to prepare for the Brevet Supérieur which tested the candidates’ knowledge of the core curriculum as well as their professional aptitude. Every student teacher “wore a black cashmere dress, or a plain woollen wrap overtop, a plain skirt, a plain blouse”. In 1900, there were only 558 students in Grenoble, by 1914 there were 1326. It was a dynamic city – with five local dailies to its name – but, in 1919 Rose left to further her education at Lyon’s École des Beaux-Arts where she would accumulate awards.