whole world is now acquainted with the Louis Vuitton brand, which after
an autonomous existence of more than a century was at first linked with
the Champagnes Moët and Chandon under the acronym LVMC and then, twenty
years ago, joined the remains of the Boussac empire (Christian Dior,
Bon Marché etc.) in the group founded by one of the condottiere of our time, Bernard Arnault.
The saga of the Louis Vuitton house has often been recounted. Louis
Vuitton was born in 1821, in a village 400 kilometers far from Paris.
He worked with his father, miller and carpenter. In 1837, he went on
foot to Paris, and engaged as an apprentice by a "box-maker, packer and luggage-maker",
a professional who dealt with the luggage of rich travelers. He learned
to make trunks and even worked for Empress Eugenie. In 1854 he created
his company (shop at 4 rue Neuve des Capucines in Paris, with the
addition of a workshop in Asnières, where is now a small museum, the Galerie Louis Vuitton).
He based his success on the creation of flat trunks, which the
development of the railway allowed, while trunks placed above
horse-drawn carriages were curved to facilitate the flow of rainwater.
The company growed thanks to the help of Louis'son, Georges. The
Parisian boutique moved to 1, rue Scribe. Georges advocated an
international development. That's why a branch opened in London in
1885, first in Oxford Street and later (in 1889) on the Strand.
But where are the fans in this story? They are in the hands of the
customer women ... and therefore in the trunks created by Louis
Vuitton. Indeed, from 1856, if we believe Yann Kerlau (Les dynasties du luxe, edi8, 2016): "The
new Vuitton trunks, in a beautiful Trianon gray, are delivered to the
Tuileries. For the first time, lockers for the gloves and fans have
been fitted in the lateral parts, an ingenious process which excites
the Empress". This particularity will remain for decades. There
is no doubt that the workshop of Asnières still responsible for special
orders can (for a significant cost!) make trunks with
compartments for your precious fans.
But it is later that the"Louis Vuitton" fans did appear. On December 21,
2016, the Coutau-Bégarie auction house study sold (Paris, Hôtel Drouot)
a fan thus described, under lot 316:
Louis Vuitton malletier. circa 1880. Folded fan, double paper leaf paper printed on the verso with a scène galante in eighteenth century style. On the recto,
an elegant woman sits among her trunks emblazoned with the famous LV
logo. On the left, a view of the building hosting Louis Vuitton's shop
"Trunks ans bags 149 New Bond Street" in London, and on the right a
view of the Parisian building, 1 rue Scribe.
Fan E. Ganné. Wooden sticks, varnished guards. Stamped and silvered guard. H.t. 24.8 cm / hr. 16 cm.
This description, for the rest perfect, is however wrong with regard to
the dating of the fan. Indeed, if Georges Vuitton wished very early to
settle in this location, his father was reluctant. And when the death
of his father in 1892 gave Georges a free hand, it was the owner
(perhaps the Duke of Westmister, owner of a good part of the
neighborhood?) who refused, finding that the tenant was not classy
enough... Finally the lease was signed in 1900 (see Yann Kerlau, op. cit.). This fan can not be earlier.
fans, although not very common, are not particularly rare, and can
occasionally be found on sale at specialist dealers or in auctions.
Let's give some examples:
- Christie’s Sale 6701 Fans 13 December 1994, London, South Kensington
Lot 18 Louis Vuitton a lithographic advertising fan in brown published
by J. Ganne, overstamped The Cunard Steam Ship Company Limited, the
verso with a chromolithograph of couples fishing, with wooden sticks -
9in. (24cm.), circa 1900 (slight tear to leaf) See illustration
Estimate GBP 150 - GBP 300 (USD 234 - USD 468) Price realised GBP 187
Christies Sale 9425, 2 July 2002, London, South Kensington FINE
NEEDLEWORK, COSTUME, TEXTILES AND FANS Lot 385 An Art Nouveau Louis
Vuitton advertising fan, the paper leaf printed... estimate £300 - £500
($458 - $764) price realized £494 ($754)
- O'Gallerie (Portland, Oregon, Canada), 30/04/2007 Lot 0407-0171:
LOUIS VUITTON ADVERTISING FAN IN DISPLAY CASE, French, early 20th
century. The paper hand fan has images printed on both sides: one
advertising Louis Vuitton luggage in brown print, the opposite side
with illustrated song printed in colors. Case dimensions: 15.5"H x
23.5"L x 1.75"W. $650 internet bidder live auction
- eBay, 28/06/2010, "rare antique LOUIS VUITTON advertising fan Wood for the handle and paper, recto orned by a richly dressed woman sitting on Vuitton trunks, storefronts of two Vuitton stores in Paris and London and on the verso
of the fan lyrics and illustrations of a song called LA BERGÈRE. Two
tears to glue down left (see photo 2), otherwise nice condition. (sold
- a fan with the song "La Bergère" was again auctioned on March 1, 2011
in Toulouse (Primardéco) but we do not know if it sold and at what
It should be noted that for all these fans, the main leaf, which we call "obverse" or "front", or "recto"
is the one without advertising. How do we identify it? Thanks to the
guard which is decorated on this side, while it remains void on the
back! Thanks also to the changing scenery: fishing couples, "scène galante",
printed song (in the three cases mentioned above, it is "the
Shepherdess"). Obviously, the ladies of the day, unlike today, did not
want to become advertising media, and the merchant was trying to ensure
that all customers do not leave the shop with the same gift, hence
One of these rectos is also of better quality (in our opinion) and testifies well to the time of manufacture. It belongs to a fan of the Hélene Alexander collection (The Fan Museum, London), described as follows:
"Folding fan advertising Louis Vuitton c.1900
France - Measurements Length: 25cm Depth of leaf: 14.9cm - The Fan
Museum Trust -The Fan Museum, HA Collection LDFAN2015.5 Copyright
Licence All rights reserved". It may be seen here.
The attractive recto of this fan shows a young woman breathing a poppy, looking very "Art Nouveau". But its verso seems to be identical to those of the various fans listed above.
After this introduction, we will study more carefully a fan of this
series which is in our collection. As people probably did in the shops
of the rue Scribe or of New Bond Street, we will start by looking
at the recto... leaving for the future what certainly interests
more the 21st century amateurs, that is to say the advertising for Louis Vuitton. As we can see, this is Roi Dagobert's
amusing well-known song "who put on his panties inside out". The
picture illustrates the third verse: "The good king Dagobert / Was
hunting in the plains of Antwerp / The great Saint Eloi / Said to him"
O my king! Your Majesty / Is very out of breath "/ That's right, said
the king, / A rabbit ran after me".
CPHB 2013 © P.H. Biger
if adults can have fun singing such a song (including a bawdy version
we shall not give here), it was in 1900 (as nowadays) a children's
song. When it was created around 1790, it was "probably like a mockery
of Louis XVI, perhaps as a result of his forced installation in Paris"
(Claude Duneton, Histoire de la
Chanson Française, Le Seuil, 1998, Volume 2, p.116-118. The tune (clé du Caveau No. 209) is older: it was a hunting tune, the Big Deer Marching Band. Perhaps this song is to be found, like that of Malbrouk,
on fans of the revolutionary period? But, in spite of the interest of
these fans with partitions, to which our friend Jean Busson, of the
Cercle de l'Eventail (Paris), must devote a study at the end of 2018,
it is here the verso of the fan that catches the attention of the
This verso, already described above, has three separate cartouches and texts. The central cartouche
shows a woman in a traveling suit sitting on a trunk and in front of a
set of trunks and bags marked L.V. London. On the left, the shop of 149
New Bond Street in London "opposite Conduct Street".
The word "Telephone" appears, but without a number. On the right, the
Paris shop, 1 rue Scribe, with telephone number (239-48). These
cartouches are surrounded by pleasant Art Nouveau floral
motifs. At the bottom, below the two images of the stores, are the
texts: "Louis Vuitton Trunks and Bags" and "Louis Vuitton Articles de
Voyage". Bottom right, there is also the inscription "J. Ganné,
Eventails, Paris". This one was a well-known fan maker who had taken over
from Rabiet (of whom we are studying a fan in our Monstre
et Magicien page).
CPHB 2013 © P.H. Biger
What else can be said about this fan? We must first examine the central scene.
immediately appears in connection with the English shop, evoked by the
inscriptions on the trunks: "L V London". This is true, because we find
the same illustration on posters or advertising inserts of the time. It
is even interesting to note that some of these illustrations include
the phone number of the London store and others not, like our fan,
which gives the Parisian number but ignores the London number.
We conjecture that (it was still the case in our distant youth) the
telephone numbers were not then attributed with the current speed, and
that the store of London had got its phone number too late for letting
it appear on all advertising documents.
Hence an additional assumption, which is that this fan was published on
the occasion of the opening of the new store of New Bond Street. The
songs in French could therefore either be preferred by the rue Scribe customers or
strengthen in London the attraction for Paris novelties, at a time when
the children of good family very often learned French.
Lateral scenes also deserve to be studied.
On the right is indeed the shop on rue Scribe, which can be found on
period phographies, and which will remain the flagship of the house
until the installation on the Champs-Elysées in 1914. On the fan, the
London layout seems at first sight of equivalent importance. In
reality, it is a shop certainly remarkably located in a neighborhood in
the meantime commercial and upscale, but whose narrow facade rivals
poorly with the Paris main shop. Obviously a little optimism was
already part of a good marketing approach!
As far as we know, the fans studied above will remain isolated in the
Louis Vuitton saga through the diversity of their recto and the
uniformity of their advertising side. However, the links of the brand
with the fans were not completed. Thus, we learn (https://www.malle2luxe.fr/malle-aero-et-aviette-louis-vuitton-voyage-voler-en-avion-montgolfiere-aeroplane/) that still in 1920 still, when the malletier will imagine for the 5th Salon de
l'Aéronautique (at the Grand Palais in Paris) an extra-light "Aero" trunk for men, he will give it a counterpart for women: the "Aviette" trunk which can contain "hats, linen, veils, fans, stockings, skirts... ".
following decades were hardly favorable to the fan in the world of
fashion, despite some contrary examples as the asymmetrical fans of
Christian Dior. However in the 1980s it was blooming again at the hands
of Karl Lagerfeld, "the man with the fan". And even when he decided to
abandon both the fan and extra kilos, he kept some on occasion in
fashion shows, as did other fashion houses. In 2009, the Spanish actress Rossy de Palma, Almodovar's muse, put for Louis Vuitton fans on the front of the stage.
In 2011, Louis Vuitton even used Anne Hoguet's talents and the collection of that year presented them in a somewhat crazy way.
(Collection Louis Vuitton Été 2011)
« Les trois tops choisies pour incarner la collection, Freja Beha
Erichsen, Raquel Zimmermann et Kristen McMenamy, sont parées
d'accessoires vintage – comme les éventails, subtiles références aux
influences japonisantes – mêlés à une modernité presque rock ».
(Pauline Gallard, Gala, lundi 24 janvier 2011)
So hand fans, through the changes that have affected the world and the Maison Louis Vuitton, continue their flight!