Ghost signs that keep the spirits alive

The next time you are driving along one of the old routes nationales and the truck driver in front slams on his brakes, do not assume he has just spotted a Relais Routiers restaurant. 
It may be he has seen a ghost... 

In French they are called publicités peintes; in English, ‘ghost signs’. Searching out these hand-painted adverts and uploading photos on to specialist websites has become a modern form of train-spotting. And not just for bored truckers.

The practice of hand-painting adverts on walls dates back centuries; one for wine was discovered in the ruins of Pompeii.
In France it flourished through the first half of the 20th century and survived into the 1960s before printed adverts on commercial billboards displaced them. They were so prolific in the 1930s they were described as a form of highway leprosy, la lèpre des routes. The more genteel English equivalent would be ‘road rash’.

Dubonnet ad in the centre of Belvès, Dordogne

But you still see them, shadows of their former selves – typically on the gable end of a building adjacent to a major highway, in bold print and (once) vibrant colours to grab the attention of the passing motorist.
You can also find them in town and city centres, where they often make dramatic reappearances when relatively modern buildings are demolished to reveal ...

To read the remaining 85% of this article, you need to either

Subscribe now to The Connexion and benefit from access to our archived articles since 2006

3 Year (Our best value offer)

3 years of great reading in print and online

17% discount on the price of a 1 year subscription

Subscription automatically renews so you don't miss an edition. You can switch this off in the 'My Account' tab which will appear top right of site once you are subscribed

1 Year

1 year of great reading in print and online

Subscription automatically renews so you don't miss an edition. You can switch this off in the 'My Account' tab which will appear top right of site once you are subscribed

Freedom Subscription

Pay every three months. Our most flexible subscription

Subscription automatically renews so you don't miss an edition. To stop your subscription, you just switch off the automatic renewal function in the 'My Account' tab which will appear top right of site once you are subscribed

More articles from Property
More articles from Connexion France

Loading some business profiles...