Sunday, February 16, 2014

Unfolding Pictures: The Triumph of Harlequin Fan, 1750

Triumph of Harlequin
Fan, 1750
The Victoria & Albert Museum

A beautiful watercolor on kid leather leaf is mounted on carved and pierced mother-of-pearl sticks which are inlaid with silver-gilt foils and yellow gold. This is the “Triumph of Harlequin” Fan and it dates to 1750. It was, most likely, made as a souvenir of Venice’s Carnival.

In the Eighteenth Century, visitors from all over Europe flocked to the Carnival in Venice. Depicted are the distinctively costumed figures associated with the celebrated Italian theatre troupe the Commedia dell’Arte. These costumes were often reproduced for people to wear during Carnival when whole of Venice was transformed into a costumed masquerade.

The painting on the fan leaf is extremely fine and delicate—both front and reverse. Speaking of the reverse, this side shows a naval scene. A tall ship lies anchored by a dark cliff with a glowing sunset behind. It’s decidedly an Italian take on the Eighteenth-Century French art of fan-making.

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