less afraidof caricaturethan is ourearly Twenty-Firstcentury. Manypolemicistsordesignersof the timewould
havebeen nowadaysfinedorimprisoned,for the irreverenttexts ordesigns theyproducedthen.Particularly, anticlericalism tookthen amagnitudethat previous epochs in this century had nottolerated.Thislefttracesin one of theFrenchconceptions of secularism, which isnotalwaysseenasrespect
for religionandconsciencebut rather asa battleagainstthe Roman Catholic Church.
Arethe fans we presentbelow in this vein?We donot know,and that's whywe askour readers.
A diabolical Capuchin?
"plein vol" (180° span) fan has wooden
They are tinted in
and pierced with leaf motifs. The guards have similar motifs but
sculpted in relief. The
rivet is made of metal, with a brass loop. The double leaf is made of
fabric (satin silk). The obverse is painted in gouache, the reverse is
woven with tonal stripes.
obverse is particularly original. Besides
an architectural element on which is written: "Couvent des
Capucins - Salle
Pérot, 27 avril 1881", a Capuchin monk, a rosary around
his neck, his head buried under his cap, holds in his right hand a
crucifix. The left
hand is in a move that seems designed to push (more than to bless) a
swarm of ten fantastic creatures, appearing in a luminous cloud. On
the left, closest to the monk is a quadruped with a long neck and,
apparently, two oblong breasts pointed skyward. At
the center, another being is like a
with four legs. At
the right is another bipedal
long nosed and
wide eyed monster,
with a tail and a crest but without visible wings. Above
is a crowd of seven flying creatures. A couple of them vaguely resemble
birds, the others being completely fantastic.
had never seen such a fan... but in 2023 we found another one ! Here it is:
However Kathy Maxwell, an Australian fans collector and researcher,
reminded us of a fan by Clairin for the fanmaker Alexandre (which we
think was auctioneed some years ago?). It was illustrated in 1883 by La Vie Parisienne. The object we show here
was perhaps a source for the illustrious Clairin and Alexandre? This
fan (or a similar one, because the designs are not identical) belongs
to the Fan Museum in London, and can be seen here.
(photo B.n.F. www.gallica.fr)
As for the fans we are studying, the first one was at first failed in an auction sale to attract bidders,
perhaps because of its strange character. Lucie
Saboudjian, expert, whose hand fans experience is
long and whose competence is widely recognized,
had in fact titled this lot "Le
Capucin diabolique" (the Diabolical
She described: "a Capuchin invoking the succubus." That,
in our view, was enough to decrease the number of bidders, most of them
being respectable undevilish ladies! But,
of course, this was a humorous notation meant to relax the sales room,
as our own words only want to entertain our visitors.
what indeed are the Succubuses? We did not meet them in or since 2016; at least
do not we recognize them. The
etymology is accessible to the beginner Latin scholar since the word is
formed of sub (under) and cubare (to sleep, or to lay on). The
Oxford dictionary online gives the following definition: "A
female demon believed to have sexual
intercourse with sleeping men". Note that in French sucubuses
are male. The
French Academy, in its 1718 dictionnary wrote:.. "Succubus, masculine substantive. They are
called the devil, when, in the opinion of some people, they take
the form of a woman to have carnal company of a man". The
Academy linked the word with its antonym "Incubus", whose definition
was " Sort of demon that, following
a popular error, abuse of women."We
leave our readers specialists of gender studies think about the
differences between these two definitions. In our opinion, devils,
being fallen angels, are asexual. Anyways
we do not see here, unfortunately, lovely young womenbut,
probably, the demons before theytakeonthis prettier appearance.But how ist it possible to confirm thisstatement?It is indisputable thatthemonkdepicted on the fan wears agarment used by the monksof the Franciscan
hisname).The Capuchinsare characterized
bythe useof the
colorand the fact thatsometimestheirbure includes a whitepart has given itsname to the
famouscappuccino.Without adoubt, as proved by the comparison with
a Zurbaran's paintingshowing thesaint,themonkdepictedhereisa
Capuchin.We seebesides him hisfloating girdle,whose nodesrecall
thevows of poverty,chastity
and obedience.The secondwould be greatlycompromised bythe action ofsuccubus...
Museu Nacional d'Art de
Inventory number: 011528-000
Does the Capuchinon
the fan invokesuccubi(if they aresuccubi: remember thatto fool thementhey take more attractiveforms!!!).We would thinkhe ratherrepelsthem,before hesuccumbed to the charmsoftheir avatars...or after.
Maybe, his "Vade retro, Satanas" accompanied by
hand andthe presentation of thecrucifix would bringthe returnof the devils
to theirreal form,ofnature, itmust be said,to deter anybody from sinsof the flesh.
What do we see
on the second fan? The monk is turned in the other direction, he still
holds a rosary in his hand but no more crosses and under his hood one
believes he can guess a bearded face decked out with a nose that is
more bulbous than hooked! The succubi have disappeared, but the
mysterious Capuchin is now accompanied by a pig playing a stringed
instrument (perhaps a lute?). Drawings of pigs playing a guitar (and
even a real pig!!!) are fairly easy to find on the internet, but we
haven't seen any dating from before 1881, which perhaps makes this fan
a precursor object.
Why this scenes on fans ? Whatever
is the interpretation given to this scenes, how the hell (dare we say)
do we find them on hand fans, a feminine object more
often crowded with putti, ancient
deities or matrimonial biblical scenes than with demons, Franciscans or pigs? (Although we remember our visitors our "piggy fan" on this website).
must, of course, place us on the date of the fan: 1881. In that late
nineteenth century, science thought about to vanquish all
superstitions, but sometimes in fact stays close to them. Jean-Baptiste
Charcot (1822-1893) reached that year consecration. By
studying hysteria, he opened the way for Freud, but also attracted
Magnétismes, in 1882,
the Frencch well-known author Guy de Maupassant called Charcot a
"laboratory breeder of histerics (...) to whom he inoculates madness
no time, makes
them demonic". At
this moment, in Europe, in parallel with spiritualism (serious people
are turning the tables, invoke the spirits and make the dead speak), a
Satanist current grows. To
stick to France, one can evoke Les
Diaboliques by Barbey d'Aurevilly, a novel published in 1874 but
confiscated by judgment, and republished in 1882. The French Novelist
will highlight Satanism in his novel Là-Bas
historical case of Gilles de Rais (a source for Bluebeard) allows the
novelist to address contemporary manifestations (black masses, esoteric
Kabbalah, occultism). Note
here that it is in this darkness that Huysmans began thinking... And
this led him back to the Catholic faith, followed by a number of
intellectuals of the time. Perhaps, the Capuchin of the fan has managed
also to drive out his demons?
As for the other fan, it is difficult a priori
to know the significance of the presence of the pig. This animal has
certainly been the subject of caricatures for centuries. It is often
associated with lust, but also with dirt, and even seen in
anti-Semitic caricatures (the Jewish religion prohibiting the
consumption of pork...). A single contemporary example of the fan will
be shown with caricatures attacking the French writer and polemist
Emile Zola, presented as too "materialistic" and as a pornographer.
These caricatures are borrowed from John Grand-Carteret, Zola en Images, Paris, Félix Juven, s.d. 
To bring more meaning to this fan, we must
take an interest in the inscription: "Couvent des Capucins - Salle Pérot,
27 avril 1881". This
"Salle Pérot" (Pérot Hall) is difficult to locate precisely because it
has certainly gone, and we find for it various addresses: 20, rue
Ordener, 5, bd de la Chapelle, 29, rue Riquet. All those streets
ar are north of the popular district of
the Goutte d'Or in Paris, in the vicinity of railroad tracks, with
street numbers that have changes and a urban scenery which has
continuously evolved since
despite the constance of some elements.
This Salle Pérot is known as a place of political and trade union
activities. It is known that there existed a Blanquist club in 1870,
led by the revolutionary, free-thinker and a Freemason Théophile Ferré
(shot in 1871). In his diary, mentioning her action during
the Commune of Paris, the famous Louise Michel writes, about "vigilance
committees" in revolutionary Montmartre: "In the evening, I
found mean to be present at both clubs since that of women,
rue de la Chapelle, at the local Tribunal, opened the first. So we
could after attend to half of the sitting at the Salle Pérot, sometimes
the entire session. Both were wearing the name "Club de la Revolution,
district des Grandes Carrières." During railway strikes
in 1910, this hall played also its role, since according to newspaper Le Petit Parisien on Monday, October 10, 1910, "The
strikers from depots, that held no
yesterday, are convened this morning at six o'clock, Salle Pérot, 20, rue
Ordener. " On month before,
as the panel beneath shows, the Socialist Party organized there a
meeting in favour of birth control, "Free Love" and "Free Motherhood".
It seems this
Salle Pérot hada linkwith a "Salle Garrigues", where"the citizens of Clichymeton May 17, 1903,
in the 'grande Salle Garrigues', a
number of 600under the
and said they no longerwant to paythe priests andclaim theseparation
of Churchand State, thecomplete secularizationof the Republic ". Shortly after it will bethe
headquarters of the newspaper L'Anarchie,
which will house for a time theBelgian-Russian VictorSerge, a French
speaking revolutionary and writer.
To make it short,
this"Salle Pérot" has of course neversheltered a Capuchin convent, butdefinitelywelcomed manyactivists andrevolutionary syndicalists, socialists,freethinkers or anarchists.
But whathappened there on 27 April 1881? Some words
about the fanmaker Kees
This is not the place for telling the history of Kees. In 2005,
it was the subject of an exhibition at the regrettedMusée de l'Eventail inParis,witha booklet byGeorginaLetourmy.But sincethis fan
wears on its reverse the signature ofErnestKees, wetake this opportunity tosay a
First,how should wepronouncethat name?It is commonunder
the influenceof the domination ofthe Anglo-Americanlanguage, to hear peoplesaying"Kiss"(mostly
byFrench, Anglo-Saxon people lengthening the two"e" syllable).Thefanmaker SylvainLe Guen,at the time still not
a "maître d'art"andthe head of a Parisian"Maison", but alreadytalented, playedwiththis pronunciationto make the pleasant fan we showbelow.
But toreturn to our"diabolicalCapuchin fans,"we'll
beautifulsignatures onthe reverses.As it
should be, sincethe fan is dated 1881,the address ofErnestKeesis still at28, ruedu Quatre Septembre.
Questions to our dear friends and
usual,these questionsare realquestions thatwe can not answer,
in spite of our
1)What happened onApril 27th, 1881in the Salle Pérot? 2)The handwritten signatures of ErnestKees(rather a talented painter, it is said) on the
verso of the fan are more elaborate thanoften. Mayit bea sign that hewould bethe author of thepaintings on the obverses ?
3) Haveyou ever seen(and where)thesurreal or surrealisticcreatures, or the playing guitar pig,that adornthis item?
Please have the kindness ofresponding(orgiving any question ornotice)bythe link providedinthe site's home page.We
will not failto thank you,and to shareyour finds,as soon as they moveustowards truth.
1) many of you saw a spout under the hood of the Capuchin, and many
also noted that the hands and one foot, under the bure, appear with
claws. This would make the Capuchin himself a diabolical creature. To
be honest, we ourselves had that feeling, but not to influence our
visitors, had preferred to say nothing;
2) Aldo Dente, an Italian recognized fans specialist, noticed that the crucifix seems held upside down,
reinforcing the idea of a satanic ritual;
3) our late friend Gerald Gould, husband of Sylvie (an emeritus hand fans
collector) thought the painter used hallucinogenic substances, and
several correspondents mentioned a relationship with Bosch. Another found
that the black spider creature in the foreground does not seem from the
same hand than the rest; but, looking at the fan in hand, we believe
that this impression comes from que position of this creature backlight
to the bright cloud.
4) Although no one can unfortunately find there a direct link, Dr.
Alice Labourg (Rennes 2 University), whose thesis was on The pictorial imagination in Gothic novels
of Ann Radcliffe, made a wise reference to the works of this
kind, particularly with The Monk by
"evil" hypothesis taking shape, even as a parody or a caricature, but
definitely anticlerical, we will add that this subject was fashionable
since the publication in 1875 by Isidore Liseux (himself defrocked,
Latin scholar, editor and known for his militant atheism) of the
translation of a manuscript by Father Ludovico Maria Sinistrari
(1632-1701) : De la Démonialité et
des animaux incubes et succubes où l'on prouve qu'il existe sur terre
des créatures raisonnables autres que l'homme, ayant comme lui un corps
et une âme, naissant et mourant comme lui, rachetées par N. S.
Jésus-Christ et capables de salut et de damnation. This book,
which seems genuine, speak especially of reality and nature of
succubus and incubus (which would not be demons but animals...).
Let us add that by
ourselves, we found mention in various histories of Paris Streets or
Montmartre, of a "Bal Perot" located rue de La Chapelle, which in all
likelihood gave way to the "Salle" of the same name. This change would
have been quite easily : if one believes the newspaper L'Union Monarchique du Finistère (Saturday,
March 22, 1884), political meetings often ended in ball (see the
Our fan may have belonged to this mixed category.
Alas, all this still does not answer our questions.
So thank you for your support, past, present and future!
Let us end by pointing out an obvious kinship: that of Robertson's phantasmagorias
: those projections of magic lanterns with ghosts, phantoms and
mysterious creatures took place in 1799 in the former Capuchin convent
of the Rue Saint Honoré in Paris. Chateaubriand wrote: "The community
of the Capuchins is sacked, the inner cloister serves as a retreat for
Robertson's phantasmagoria." But this is a subject we will probably
come back to one day, about another hand fan.