Monday, June 23, 2014

Unfolding Pictures: The Toilette Fan, 1670-80

French, 1670-80
The Victoria & Albert Museum

“The toilette,” the process of getting dressed, was a fashionable subject for a fan leaf in the late Seventeenth Century. Such scenes were often depicted on elegant fans. Here’s an example of such a fan showing an attractive, elegant room which opens on one side with a view of a distant landscape behind. Therein, putti are preparing Cupid’s bath and making his bed. The vellum leaf, painted in watercolors, is based on paintings by Jan Brueghel the Elder.

The reverse is painted with three bunches of roses within a broad border which repeats the shape of the fan leaf. The border is punctuated with a design of flowers and formal leaf patterns.

The sticks and guards are of pierced and carved tortoiseshell and have been decorated with hand-painted squiggles. The fan was made between 1670 and 1680 in France. Some feel that it was meant to celebrate the “Appartement des Bains” at Versailles—the sumptuous bathroom of Louis XIV's mother, Anne of Austria. 


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