Christmas figurine of maverick French medic Didier Raoult sells out

·2 min read

A French craftswoman has taken inspiration from Covid-19 to create her latest Christmas nativity figurine – and her rendition of rebellious French virologist Professor Didier Raoult has already sold out.

Fabienne Pardi is what the French call a "santonnière", an artisan who makes small figurines used to create traditional, and not-so-traditional nativity scenes at Christmas time, based on time-worn techniques from the Provence region of southern France.

This year, she felt inspired to include a personality who marked the news in 2020.

Professor Didier Raoult, a doctor from Marseille, became a media phenomenon with his controversial use of hydroxychloroquine to treat patients infected with Covid-19.

It took Pardi over three hours to handpaint each 7cm clay figurine, dressed in a lab coat, with the signature long grey hair and glasses, and carrying a test tube.

Pardi has been running the family business in Saint-Cyr-sur-Mer since 1991, taking over from her father Henri Pardi who founded it in 1949.

Honouring heroes of the medical world

Each year she makes around 1,800 figurines, known as ‘santons’, some based on traditional characters of the nativity scene – baby Jesus, Joseph, Mary – but mostly local heroes, such as farmers, animals, shopkeepers and children.

It’s not the first time Pardi, who originally trained as a nurse, has been inspired by the world of medicine.

In her collection is a nurse with a Red Cross uniform circa 1890 and a Doctor treating the plague in 1720, with his staff to keep sick people at bay, wearing a 'beak-like' mask for protection – the ancestor to the famous FFP2.

Her 2020 Didier Raoult, of which she made around 50 pieces, has already sold out – with a price tag of 35 euros each. It's a welcome surprise, since artisans like Pardi are unlikely to have the usual full exposure at Christmas markets with coronavirus health restrictions in place.