Saturday, March 29, 2014

Unfolding Pictures: The Sleeping Beauty Fan, 1888

The Sleeping Beauty Fan
Phoebe Traquair
Scotland, 1888
The Victoria & Albert Museum

By the 1880’s, hand fans were still fashionable, but they weren’t the social requirement that they were for ladies of the early Nineteenth Century. Fans continued to be made in huge numbers, and, varying materials and quality. Even by the end of the century, many ladies felt that their ensemble was incomplete without this comforting accessory.

Artists working in the then-growing Arts and Crafts style were always looking for new surfaces to adorn, and saw the fan leaf as unexplored territory for their stylistic movement. Among the most prolific of the Scottish Arts and Crafts designers was Phoebe Traquair (1852-1936) who is often considered the leader of the style in Scotland.

We’ve had a look at some of Traquair’s jewelry designs, and, they’re quite impressive. So, I thought it might be nice to look at a fan which features her painting. This fan leaf by Traquair depicts the story of the “Sleeping Beauty” and is distinguished by the artist’s celebrated dream-like style.

The silk leaf is painted with watercolors only on the obverse, with the reverse of the fan left natural. The Sleeping Beauty is being approached by Cupid as adolescent Pans cavort around her. The fanciful scene is typical of Traquair’s work. 

The fan itself, made in Edinburgh, features ivory sticks and guards. 

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