Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Unfolding Pictures: Queen Mary’s Blue Jay Fan, 1893

Jay Feather Fan
Feather, linen, tortoise shell, silver, enamel, diamonds.
Presented to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck
(later Queen Mary) as a wedding gift, 1893.
The Royal Collection
Throughout her life, until she became Queen, Mary was affectionately called “May” or “Princess May.” She acquired the nickname through her punctual Sprintime birth as well as the fact that it’s the natural shortened form of “Mary.” Even as a child, Princess May, preferred the arts over all other pursuits and while her brothers and Wales cousins were romping around the Royal pond, she was busy enjoying the art of her Kensington Palace surroundings.

Mary of Teck, as I’ve noted dozens of times, enjoyed collecting things above all else. She had an impressive collection of almost every conceivable kind of art. Fans were a personal favorite of Mary. Here’s an unusual example.

This fan features a leaf of the small blue wing feathers of a jay which have been backed by large black tail feathers. It’s supported by blond tortoiseshell sticks guards, with the front guard bearing the monogram MAY in silver-set diamonds beneath an enamel silver gilt crown which has also been set with diamonds and enameled in white and red. The silver-gilt pin sports glittering diamond heads. This lovely fan was presented to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck on the day of her 1893 wedding to the future King George V by Count and Countess Henry Larisch.

Made in Vienna, it is preserved in its original box which still retains fragments of the trade stamp of the Viennese firm Gebrüder Rodeck.

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