Rose Valland, on “the Art Front”

Coordination scientifique : Corinne Bouchoux

Unsung death and belated homage

Pierre tombale de Rose Valland (Saint-Etienne de Saint-Geoirs)

Rose Valland’s tombstone ( Saint Etienne de Saint Geoirs), Françoise Flamant, 2000, 10 x 13 (cm), collection particulière, © Françoise Flamant. 

Rose Valland retired in 1968 but kept up sorting a part of the archives pertaining to her work. Between 1968 and 1978 she was an unpaid employee whose supervisory authority she occasionally irritated in her insistence on pursuing her investigations.

Rose Valland kept her role in the Resistance quite – and her private life too so that there are few traces of her life-long companionship with Joyce Heer (1911-1877) who held a secretarial job. The two women’s closeness is not in question even though their private correspondence is missing.

Léon Christophe, a close friend of Rose Valland confirmed that Rose was distraught at her friend’s death in 1977. She no longer called him and it fell to him to phone and enquire of her. The foreword to Joyce’s thesis on the Greek traveller and geographer Pausanias, drafted by her dissertation director, divulged in 1979 the two women’s long-standing relationship.

Rose Valland died but a little later, on 18 September 1980 in what a close friend called a “deathtrap” at Ris-Orangis (Essone). Rose Valland had asked to be buried beside Joyce Heer in strict privacy in her native village of Saint Etienne de Saint Geoirs. A mass was celebrated one month later.

Joyce Heer

Joyce completed a thesis on the writer Pausanias shortly before dying of a breast cancer. Rose accordingly had the title of “Doctor” engraved on the family tomb at Saint Etienne de Saint Geoirs. She had Joyce’s thesis, La personalité de Pausanias, published at her own expenses by the Éditions Belles Lettres; prefaced by Fernand Robert it would prevent Joyce from sinking without a trace down the pits of history.

Joyce Heer

Joyce Heer, anonymous, 20th century, black and white photograph.

Joyce rarely came to Saint Etienne de Saint Geoirs; Rose visited for a week every summer. Sometimes a call “from le Louvre” (namely Joyce) put an end to her stay. Right up to the end Rose remained deeply attached to her native village and her “patch”.

Joyce Heer (5 June1911 - 28 August 1977) had worked as a bilingual secretary for the United States (according to the US diplomatic services who supported the 1997 exhibition) It would seem that Joyce was arrested and incarcerated by the Germans during the war. Judging by the photographs accessed in private collections, Rose and Joyce met after the war. Their shared passion for art and history brought them together. Once retired, Joyce studied Greek and the Hellenic civilisation.

Léon Christophe and Rose Valland

Rose Valland and Léon Christophe’s friendship is underscored by the correspondence between them. In 1975, Rose Valland answered a letter from Léon Christophe sent following the programme “Les dossiers de l'écran”. She invited her friend Léon Christophe for lunch: “I wanted to ask you whether you might, sometime (…) do us the pleasure to come for lunch down our way? Would it bother your wife to join us?” (extract from a letter from Rose Valland to Léon Christophe 10 April 1975).

An amateur video shows an interview of Léon Christophe who lived in Brunoy (91). He is among the rare few who mention Joyce. He concurred that Rose was the silent type and reticent about her private life. He spoke with her two months before her death.