Liens, musées etc




Questions d'Eventails



Monograph - A giant woman !

 This is the center part of a seemingly uninteresting 1770/1785 fan...

Click on the picture to see more !


Giants were, during the XVIIIth century, a show for fairs and several items remind it. For instance, in "Ventole e ventagli" published by the Musei e Gallerie de Milano (Museo d'Arti Applicate - Raccolta Bertarelli) we can see (p 83), a printed fan leaf (ca 0768), featuring the notorious Bernardo Gilli. He is surrounded, like the above character, by some persons of more usual size. As on our fans, it seems that the artist has a little emphasized the difference...

So, we think that our fan has also some meaning. But which one ?

Of course, we have asked different people in north of France, Belgium and so on, where giants are still part of public and now quite touristic feasts. Alas, no answer was given regarding the above fan. (And however, in his Origines Antwerpianoe, 1569, and De Gigantomachia, royal physician Johannes Goropius Becanus reports that a youth almost nine feet tall and a woman about ten feet tall lived near his home in Flanders).


Viktor Zabolotny, with a speaker and a (small) spectator in Medellin, Colombie Albeiro Lopera / Reuters

The difference between the tall woman and the two other persons on the fan is (we can think) exagerated.

However, it is not very unlike what can be seen today between very tall and very small persons.

For instance, the side photo showstwo of the supposed tallest men in the world.

Have you some idea ?

Robert Wadlow scanned from newspaper files (Northeastern Nevada Museum) Elko.

Do you know who is this Giant Woman ?

Does her costume make you remind of someting ? Do you know who are the two "little persons" who dare to approach ?

Thanks for giving your opinion !

And remember that if you are of a genuine help, you will be welcome here for some fan related question of your own !

M. Georges X's explanation

In our "forum", M. Georges X gave this very interesting study : ( sorry if our translation is wrong in some way. And we are unable to translate the foot note about uniforms ! Specialists will help themselves !)

This person is bending, in opposition with a legendary giant who would be standing up, strong and impressive. The red uniform * could be the french infantry waistcoat during the 7 years war (1756-1763) at the time of Friedrich II of Prussia (1712-1740-1786).

Friedrich II, quite paranoïac, did succeed to gather in his court a lot of giant persons. (He spent a lot for that purpose).

The spade was 2.10 meters long. It is surely used here in order to give the scale. The common size woman gives another scale. The walking stick may help to guess the legs size (??). This giant woman could be 10 feet high ! More than 3.00 meters ! In spite of the naïvety of his drawing, the artist surely tried to depict the best he could what he was seeing . For 50 years, numerous very tall people were to be seen in Potsdam. May be this one is the taller ? I can be wrong. 10 feet high is a size which is recorded in some medical books. And there is a legend saying that, since those days, Potsdam inhabitants are very tall !.

prussian soldiers in 1750/1760


* UNIFORME ROUGE. D’infanterie de la guerre de 7 ans et avant. L'habit à la couleur de fond rouge que l'on retrouve dans de nombreuses armées du nord de l'Europe au 18ème siècle (Angleterre, Danemark, Villes Hanséatiques, Norvège...). L'artillerie possède les distinctives de l'infanterie qui sont définies par le règlement du 19 janvier 1747:

L'ordonnance du 31 octobre 1758 concernant les officiers et sergents des compagnies de fusiliers supprime espontons et hallebardes remplacés par le fusil.

Those explanation from this kind "surfer" looked very interesting, and we thank him very much. We tried to go further, and thought about Frederick II's father, Frederick William

David Fraser (in Frederick The Great) tells us, that Frederick's "regiment" of "Giant Grenadiers" allegedly included guardsmen over eight feet tall.

For almost everyone knows the story of the Potsdam Grenadiers Guards, the regiment of giants, recruits for which were sought throughout Europe. Most towered above seven feet, and a few even exceeded eight feet. Each guard wore a pointed hat to look even taller. Exceptionally tall men were unceremoniously press-ganged: a scandal was caused when an Italian priest was dragged from his altar by Frederick William's over enthusiastic agents and when an Imperial diplomat was shanghaied.Foreign heads of state learned that they could get the king of Prussia to sign treaties in their favor if they sent him a few giants as a gift. Eventually he acquired two thousand giants by hook or by crook, but the price in suffering was high. These poor Potsdam freaks lived under terrible conditions, and morale was dreadful. Most of the guards were forced to serve for life, so about 250 deserted every year, while others committed suicide. The king even tried mating his Grenadiers with lofty women, a failed experiment which presaged the later Lebensborn programme of the SS.

At the beginning of the last century, against the wall of the old Potsdam Castle still stood the measure the King used for his giant Guards.


Frederick William I

What do you think about that, you, fan fanatics, military uniforms friends, 18th century lovers ?

Please give us your advice !  (address on home page)

... and have a look at the other fan questions 

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