Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Unfolding Pictures: The Emily Beauclerk Fan, 18th C.

Click image to enlarge.

Hand Fan
French or British, Eighteenth Century
Watercolor on paper leaf with ivory sticks and guards.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, a variety of hand fans were imported from the East into Europe. China exported a vast array of fans into England and Europe and, soon, the Chiense style became quite fashionable for hand fans. European artists strove to emulate these Chinese fans in order to keep local business going. This fan, made in the Eighteenth Century, probably comes from either Britain or France and is a clever take on the Chinese style which was growing in popularity at the time.

With expertly carved and pierced ivory sticks, the fan sports a paper leaf which has been hand-painted with a watercolor Chinoiserie landscape. However, instead of depicting the usual Chinese figures in Eastern dress, the men and women in the scene are show in fashionable European dress. Their faces, nevertheless, are meant to look Asian. One of the figures, a woman, is shown holding a paper fan with a floral pattern in pink which nearly replicates the flowers which have been painted on the reverse of the leaf. 

The fan was donated to the V&A by one Emily Beauclerk, its last owner.

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