Monday, October 18, 2010

Object of the Day: A French Hand Fan with Mother-of-Pearl Sticks

We’ve taken a look at several antique fans over the last few weeks. This one is one of the more ornate in my collection. Delicate lace has been intricately worked into a scalloped pattern around the hand-painted silk leaf. Signed by the artist, a scene of courtly ladies has been painted in great detail. The whole of the leaf is adorned with glass beads and sequins so that the fan would shimmer with each motion.

The leaf is mounted on shining mother-of-pearl sticks which have been carved in relief with flowers and pierced-work volutes accented in silver and gold. This masterpiece was mounted on rose velvet in a gilt case sometime in the 1950’s. The fan itself dates to the mid Nineteenth Century and is an excellent example of the artistry of fan-makers of the era. By this point, fans had taken on a cultural and social importance—acting more as a means of communication than simple utilitarian objects. A fan such as this would have been employed exclusively in the evening, at a formal, candlelit event. Not only would it have served to keep a lady cool, it would have acted as a mesmerizing signal to a possible suitor. Objects such as this were just one more one in which a lady could adorn herself and express her individuality.

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