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Bacchus and the Savoy Gentlewoman       (Cette page en français)

Fig. 3

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The text reproduces, by courtesy of the Cercle de l'Eventail, our article published in December 2013 in the
Nouveau Bulletin du Cercle de l'Eventail, n° 2
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The Gentlewoman gifts

The feminine and Londonian magazine The Gentlewoman 1 had, for sure, high quality customers, to which he could not make poor gifts. That is why the magazine was in the custom, at the approach of Christmas, of offering its readers color reproductions on satin.

In a "Special Auction Services" sale in Newbury 22, 23 and 24 February 2012, we find those of 1902 (« The Gentlewoman, large white satin picture 'Christmas Morning - An Errand of Mercy' issued with the Christmas supplement 1902 ») ; of 1905 (« The Gentlewoman, large white satin picture 'Portrait of Mrs Siddons' issued with the Christmas supplement 1905 »);  or of 1909 (« The Gentlewoman, large satin picture, 'The Four Seasons', Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn, with calendar for 1910 »).  However, it is the Christmas 1910 gift which concerns us here. (See fig. 1). It is, at the same auction, described as (lot 1078) « The Gentlewoman, large satin picture 'Rinaldo in Garden of Armida' replica of the historic fan from the original in the possession of HM Queen Mary ».  [2].)

We have over time accumulated various pieces of information about this document. May be they can be pleasant or helpful for those who are interested in fans, and know little about this story. But many probably have this fan leaf, as it has been carefully preserved in numerous copies by our British friends : they are often fond of memories connected with the Royal Family.

fig 1

Fig. 1


                The Queen's Fan   

Victoria Mary of Teck became Queen consort on May 6, 1910 when, at the death of Edward VII, her husband ascended the throne as George V. It's seems that to celebrate this advent The Gentlewoman magazine decided to offer its customers this reproduction. This special Christmas issue does not say a lot about the gift. On top cover (see fig. 2) appears only  the mention  « WITH H.M . QUEEN MARY’S favourite FAN reproduced on SATIN in COLOURS ». It is the satin leaf itself, included with a protective paper between pages 6 and 7 wich clarifies the matter. For it wears on its upper edge the indication:«  Supplement to "The Gentlewoman" Christmas Number ».We see, where the gorge of the fan would be,   and between  roses and two putti holding a banner « Rinaldo in the garden of Armida »,  this narrative: « Replica of the Historic Fan reproduced by the Gentlewoman with graci ous permission, from the original in the possession of Her Majesty The Queen ».

.Queen Mary

Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ggbain.31282


The cover of this issue is Christmas linked an and features a happy mundane meeting titled "Auld lang syne at the Savoy Hotel on New Year's Eve." This illustration is a detail from a work by Max Cowper (fl.1893-1911) published January 5, 1907 by The Illustrated London News (p. 20-21). Or course, it prefigures the 1910/1911 New Year's Eve, and is not unrelated to the announcement of the gift quoted in the header.

Fig. 2

                         The fan offered to the customers of the Savoy and The Gentlewoman

Indeed, for several months, the directions of The Gentlewoman and of the Savoy Hotel had been working together in order to offer the elegant and wealthy clientele of the Strand great hotel  a fan using this very leaf. An owner of one of these fans, Mr J. T. Jeffery, had in 1982 the curiosity (nothing stops fans lovers, or their spouses) of writing to the director of the Savoy. The answer was given - through a letter in our possession-  on 20 December 1982 (in time for New Year's Eve!) by Patricia Kelvin, MA, PhD, Archivist. The "Savoy Hotel Limited" group is still at 1, Savoy Hill. But does the company still hire an Archivist, furthermore a Doctor in Arts? Patricia Kelvin, having studied the archive, quotes a letter from George Reeves-Smith, Director of the Savoy, to A. J. Warden, editor of The Gentlewoman.

With regard to the packing of the fans, this will depend on the date on which our cases are ready; I am having some samples made, but am unable at the moment to say when the 1500 required will be ready ... possibly it would be more convenient if our cases were ready in time for the fans to be placed in them by your people. I think that in each case there should be a slip of paper enclosed giving a short history of the fan; something to the effect that this is in the possession of Her Majesty the Queen and that special permission has been given to copy the fan. At the foot of all this all we should wish to state would be "With the Compliments of the Savoy, New Year's Eve. 1910/11" Perhaps you would kindly make a suggestion as to the legend to accompany the fan …        (Our ref: DM/40/743)

Current view of a salon of the Savoy (
Patricia Kelvin goes on quoting the press on 2 January 1911

Le Telegraph : In the luxurious salons of the Savoy Hotel there were gathered between 1500 and 2000 ladies and gentlemen. The former each received as a souvenir a Rinaldo fan, an exact replica of the original which belongs to Queen Alexandra.

The Telegraph words, actually incorrect, since the fan belonged to Queen Mary and not to her stepmother Queen Alexandra, was complemented by The Times, quoted by the same letter of 1982:

The Savoy always has a very large supper lis  on New Year's Eve, but upon this occasion, the 2lst anniversary of the opening of the hotel, the attendance was greatly increased. The Strand entrance had been transformed into a huge marquee, lit with hundreds of different coloured lights, and through this the guests passed to the new ballroom and supper rooms. Over 2000 people sat down to supper and the accommodation was taxed to the utmost, several tables having to be arranged in the entrance lounge

Patricia Kevin also states that if Mr. Warden (and The Gentlewoman) was clearly responsible for the printing of those fan leaves, the boxes were made ​​by JS Henry & Co, 1 New Burlington ST.,  the silk cover  having been chosen by Mr. Reeves-Smith himself.

Rinaldo and Armida?

                                                                   Unfortunately we have no information on the fanmaker who would have mounted these fans. A lot of them still do exist, and many readers of this article might have one... or many. Like us, they probably have the same question, and maybe someone has got the answer?  The satin leaf with poor colours, is undoubtedly a British production , like other satin sheets offered on the occasion of a dozen Christmases by The Gentlewoman. But Britain, an important large Hand Fans nation in the eighteenth century is hardly known for its productions of the Belle Époque. Now the fan has all the characteristics of  the mounted luxury fans gifts given at the beginning of the century by large hotels and shipping companies, both in France and in the United Kingdom or the United States. But these fans, as far as we know, were always made ​​in France. The box itself (see fig. 3, top) resembles those used by companies like Duvelleroy or Kees. It is however fully satin lined -unusually including the bottom-, and no inscription is shown. Inside, obviously printed and cut to fit the box, a paper wears a mention that reminds those already mentioned above:

The fan presented is a facsimile of the famous « Rinaldo » fan, on which is depicted a scene in the story of Rinaldo in the garden of Armida. The original is in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen, who has very graciously granted special permission for its reproduction. With compliments from the Savoy New Year’s Eve 1910

We know that a fairly large number of fans are referring to the famous Tasso's novel Jerusalem Delivered, where we see Rinaldo out of his way to the Holy Places by spells of the sorceress Armida, and enjoying with her the delights of  an enchanted and enchanting stay (see fig. 4). Armide normally holds her magical mirror, and the two lovers are often surrounded by putti playing with the weapons of the warrior. A classical representation also shows Rinaldo's companions Ubald and the Danish, arriving to end this enchanted holiday and put him back on the right path, that of Jerusalem. This is not really the scene we show on the fans offered by the the Savoy Hotel in New Year's Eve 1910.

R & A
Renaud et Armide (éventail début XVIIIe siècle)                        Fig. 4


We assume that all these fans are identical to the one we show, taken from our collection. They are mounted with the leaf inserted in The Gentlewoman.  This leaf, although doubled, is mounted "à l'anglaise" (see Fig. 5). The sticks seem to be bone, cut, embossed and gilded with Louis XV style foliage and floral decoration.

During an exhibition at the Fan Museum in Greenwich (Collector's Choice, 1995),  the original fan belonging to the Royal collection was shown. It was for Hélène Alexander an occasion for recallong the story we are developing here. However, the fan was said to have "pressed ivory sticks. 

But let us come back to H.M. Queen Mary's fan, the cause of all this. It has been shown not only at the Fan Museum in 1995, but also when the Royal collection of fans was exhibited in 2005, and subsequently in the Trinity opera (same but different) that were then published [3].  To say the truth, in a series of articles [4] devoted  from May 1927 to Queen Mary's collections, Ms Emily Gibson had again presented this fan to the public, still seeing "Rinaldo in the garden of Armida". But when you look closely to the Gentlewoman copy (see fig. 6), and even more to the original (visible, like other fans of the royal collection on ), you understand that this interpretation is invalid. Helen Alexander and the authors of the 2005 catalogs do not fail to give the correct explanation.

fig 6Fig. 6

No, a bacchanal!

Indeed, the central couple can not be Rinaldo and Armida . The man is crowned with vine leaves and carries a thyrsus, clear Bacchus attribute . Hymen crowns the two lovers and they are surrounded by young women playing tambourines and dancing as only Bacchae can do. Thus The Gentlewoman and the Savoy in this prude England, barely out of the Victorian era, dit not give to see Rinaldo, succumbing from a female magician charms, which could honor women wit and power. Nay, it was a Bacchanale where a beautiful but drunken and lecherous god was united with who knows who : Venus,  abandoned Ariadne or mere mortal? Such scenes of revelry are quite frequently found on the fans. If the older may sometimes retain the rawness of their models, from the Eighteenth century (and even more in the Nineteenth) they often lose their most daring characters : drunken Silenus crushing his ass, naked Bacchantes, satyrs and other figures in ambiguous positions. None of this on the Royal fan reproduced by The Gentlewoman.

This would suggest that H.M. the Queen Mary, worthy grandmother of the current Queen Elizabeth, an avid and pugnatious collector before the Lord, - of fans and other objects, especially royal -, has died, a few weeks before the coronation of her granddaughter, without knowing the truth. Anyways, when Queen Elizabeth II, during the festivities of her coming, holded a fan, it was not that one!

Pierre-Henri Biger

December 2013

[1] A new The Gentlewoman magazine is published since 2010.  It is said to be much-hyped and the sister magazine to Fantastic Man. Sure that style, fashion and "hype" spirit have changed a lot during the last century!

[2] For information, this lot, including the magazine in average condition, estimated £ 150/200, was awarded only £ 110 + 

[3] MAYOR (S.), ROBERTS (J.), SUTCLIFFE (P.),  Unfolding Pictures, Royal Collection Enterprises Ltd., 2005 + "abridged version" , Royal Collection Publications, 2005) - French  edition: Images déployées (pour fans d'éventail, la collection royale  anglaise, Monelle Hayot, Saint-Rémy-en-l'Eau, 2005

[4] GIBSON (E.), “Some fans from the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen”, The Connoisseur, LXXVIII, May-August 1927 (n° 309 p 3-9; 310 p 67-73 et 311 p 131-138 + 3 pl. H.T.)

Sauf mentions contraires, tous objets et photos Coll. et © C & P.H. B.                                                

Copying any page, part of page or pictures from this website is strictly forbidden without our agreement

Please do not hesitaite to point out my English mistakes, and feel free to send me your comments, remarks, advice of any kind... and to contact me about everything related to fans, particularly in connection with my academic work on the topics of European fans from the late seventeenth to the early nineteenth century. Thank you!

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