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Here is a hand fan in 18th century style, which asks us - and therefore asks you - some questions. Perhaps would you agree to give us your answers, even uncertain ?
We will naturally share them with our visitors to the "Place de l'Eventail".
This fan is 28 cm wide, and the leaf is 13.4 cm.The two guards and the 12 sticks are of mother of pearl, which is sculpted, engraved and gold inlaid on the obverse (the back is bare, except for the guards).
As for the leaf, its atmosphere (with the central couple, the people beside, the pic-nic parties and the dancing groups in the background) is the same we find in fans representing princely -or not- marriages which were quite common at the end of the seventeenth century or during the eighteenth century.This feeling is reinforced by the lateral medallions, alleged portraits of the heroes of the day.But let us take a closer look ! First, the central scene.
The attention is clearly drawn to the couple of young people : they occupy the center of the leaf, they are designated manually by the "gentihomme" in red and gold, and it is towards them that the elegant couple at the left is heading. It is striking that by their clothes this couple seems to belong to a lower social category than the other surrounding people.
Now let us look at this detail of the right side of the leaf. If the young women dresses or hats - and their companions suits- as well seem to represent the 1780s, like the fan that one of them is waving, the general movement relates more to the nineteenth century, and so does the hairstyle of the man standing on the left. It is even possible to find some analogy with the famous "Déjeuner sur l'herbe" by Manet !.Enjoy also this close-up for a glance to the animated "ronde" in the background. Also note that the entire surface is painted, but some dots or lines can be seen here . Do they belong to an engraving, behind the painting ?And have a look at the medallion and the gold decoration, which seems very "1840".
Now just watch the left side of this fan : admire the medallion with the shepherdess, the settled picnic, the golden applications ...
And, please, have a closer look at the sheep : the lines and dots which appear testify well about the presence of the stipple engraving which served as a basis for painting this leaf.
|Let's go further !|
We feel interesting to go on in this analysis (and we encourage our visitors to do the same for their own fans, with may be some discoveries to share ?)
Let us have a look at the couple who, on the left, are heading towards the center of the scene.
Vivid colors, thick lines and crude execution give at this scène a naïvety which, for us, is very pleasant.
It is an opportunity that the reverse is not decorated in every part. So we can have a strong light behind the fan and choose a place also without a "rib" to look at the leaf by transparency. Here is what appears then on a close up of this 2 people. For a better sight and trying to discover the hidden original engraving, we convert the photograph in "shades of grey".
And so young women gain colours and loose a part of their charm and delicacy !
Just for our pleasure, and hoping you shall tell us -if possible- if the engraving is a lithography (or what other kind ?), let us look at these two pictures side by side. These young people now show their hidden nature ! Mr and Mrs Jekill + Monsieur et Madame Hyde ??
A second fan on the same basis !
(c) PH & C. B Courtesy Bonhams Textile department
(c) PH & C. B Courtesy Bonhams Textile department
Having so compared several fans, we have by chance seen, on the ''Palissy" database of the French Ministère de la Culture a fan belonging to the atelier-musée de l' Eventail Hoguet (Paris Xe), obviously made aftyer the same engraving. However the item is said to be Eignteenth century by the notice (PM75003937). We borrow here the B&W reproduction from the official website of the Ministère de la Culture.
Also look a little closer at the mother of pearl sticks.
This allows us to appreciate the gold inlay work in mop, but also to verify that the themes of the "cartouches" are pastoral, but not truly related to marriage ... as we first saw in the central scene...
Do not quit before the fan recalls its questions :
1) about its period and its technique of manufacture ;
2) but especially about the subject : what is exactly this scene, who are the protagonists ?And why is the Sydney Opera House here ? (just kidding)
Thank you in advance for your kind and surely interesting responses
(reverse of the hand fan : of course this confirms the period)
- Just after we had emailed about this page, we have got an answer from our friend David Ranftl, young and gifted fan collector (http://www.faechersammlung.de/)
- I am - like you - convinced that it is a pastiche 18th C. fan made in the 1840's or 50's. In my opinion, there is a lithography under the strong colourful hand painting. Also the golden border decorations are not painted, but printed. These ornaments as well as the peoples' dresses are quite "pseudo rococo". I could imagine that the scene is based on a stage play or opera as you have already mentioned. The tent in the middle could be a fortune teller's one and the young couple has just asked the fortune teller if their future marriage will be a lucky one.
- Maybe it is something like the final scene of the 18th C. opera "Le Devin du Village" by Jean-Jacques Rousseau...You should really read a summery of "Le Devin du Village". The main character is a shepherdess (!) and the play's premiere was in 1752, perhaps the fan was made on the ocasion of the 100th anniversary of this opéra comique... The "Sydney Opera House" is simply a blowing flag attached to the reverse of the tent in my opinion.
- Perhaps this helps a little bit. David
- Dr Virginia Fabbri Butera, Ph.D., Chair of the Art Department and Director of the Maloney Art Gallery, College of Saint Elizabeth, Morristown (NJ, USA) also has given us an advice which shows that our modest fans are parts of the great History of Art : "I found it interesting to see the hand of the female, I am assuming, amateur painters in two fans based on the same lithograph. Is it possible there are different hands painting on the same fan because the quality of the painting seems different in several places? What struck me were the Watteauesque poses and theme of the lithograph, and the fact that Matisse was clearly recalling and updating the theme of the Fete Champetre in his painting, Le bonheur de vivre (Joy of Life), 1905-06, which I just saw recently at the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania, USA. He was, of course, updating Manet's Le Dejeuner sur l'Herbe, too. Matisse's painting also has the feel of a theatrical stage set. I think the opera references are on target too".(NB Ms Fabbri Butera gave in 2007 a lecture about "The Fan in Art" at FANA annual Assemblage).
Mrs Hélène Alexander (Fan Museum) well known, cheered and et respected by all the fans amateurs, has kindly given her own opinion : " La feuille est certainement un pastiche du 18eme siecle comme l’indique Mr. Ranftl, datant de 1840/50, production Espagne?? ou Italie et, quant au sujet, ne pourrait-on penser au dernier acte des Noces de Figaro ? "
Sorry, no translation and no more for Beaumarchais :Or, Messieurs, la comédie
Que l'on juge en cet instant,
Sauf erreur, nous peint la vie
Du bon peuple qui l'entend.
Qu'on l'opprime, il peste, il crie;
Il s'agite en cent façons;
Tout finit par des chansons... (Bis.)
We hope to come back to you with the answers to our questions ! In the meantime, fans friends, usual visitors or bystanders, please give an opinion (or, better yet, photos of other fans with this subject, or of any document in connection).
Please point our English mistakes ! ... and do not forget the other questions