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        A Small Fan

We have already shown here fans said "au rectangle" (see for instance our "piggy fan"). There would certainly be more to say about this matter: it is not our purpose here, since we only want to share our questions about an item which recently entered our collection.

The more our
fans knowledge increases, the more alas our uncertainties also grow. This is why we constantly ask our visitors to kindly tell us our mistakes ... and why we ask these "Questions d'Eventails" with the hope (not always disappointed) to get answers and sometimes enrich the "Monographs" section of the site.

In order to tease 
your curiosity, we shall start with the face down of this fan leaf "mise au rectangle". On the back of an important frame, obviously specially built in the nineteenth century, we at first removed the old brown coverage paper. Under this paper, we have found some remains of a previous backing, and a large rectangle of old whitish coating. The wood panel, with its beveled edge at the rear, appears significantly older than the frame. After this first phase of discovery, we note the presence of a hole which seems to have once served to suspend the wooden panel. We also question the whitish coating, probably a trace of a previous framing, but maybe also of the presence -that we have seen on another occasion-, and the disappearance of the original merchant's business card.



The importance of the frame is surprising. But the real surprise, for somebody accustomed to fans and fan leaves "set to rectangle", is the small size of the "rectangle", and even more of the leaf itself.

Indeed, the panel measures 28.4 x 15.1 cm (11.18 x 5.94 inches) and the visible painting is some 28.1 x 14 cm (11,06 x 5,51 '), with a slight overhang on top of the leaf, hidden by the frame.

Thus the fan leaf itself has a width of only 9 cm (3.54 ') and the total height of the potential fan scarcely exceeds 14.7 cm (5.79 ').

As we consider this item, we find that the leaf seems to be made of skin (thin, but less than the beautiful Italian "cabretilles"). It is entirely gouache and gold painted. It has been applied on a coated plank of wood and, as usual, the paint has been extended in the corners and on the part of the "gorge".

The bodycolour used for these extensions seems of lower quality than on the  fan leaf itself. This one has, surrounding the wide central cartel narrow borders with leafy gold motifs, quite common in the last third of the seventeenth century. But these borders, still bright and vivid in the non-enlarged parts are dull on the gorge part and at the top of the leaf, for they probably have been re-painted when setting the leaf to the rectangle. We also find that flowers added in the corners are less vivid, and their
paint is peeling.  Perhaps some conservation work to undertake?

Here is the object as it appears once out of the frame, and without the
old and scratched thick glass which till now has protected it.

 (note below the hole that was probably once used to suspend the panel)
: Histoire de la mode en France. La toilette des femmes depuis l'époque gallo-romaine jusqu'à nos jours, par Augustin Challamel,...

Auteur : Challamel, Augustin (1819-1894)

Éditeur : Bibliothèque du "Magasin des demoiselles" (Paris)

Date d'édition : 1875

Q35 petit
Remember: Copying pictures is strictly prohibited without our permission.

It is useless to dwell on the description of the leaf, full of life and with still vibrant colours. Various questions arise, that we shall submit to our visitors, whether
fans specialists or not. We will give our first impression, asking our interlocutors not to hesitate to contradict us. We just want to begin the discussion.

1) What does this leaf show off ?

This is clearly a festive light meal on a farm or country house. The fire is burning, the table is set with a beautiful white tablecloth, nice plates and beautiful glasses and decanters have been taken out from the cupboards. The rich frame of flowers on a gold background nicely complements this festival scene, enhanced by the violinist who stands in the door of the house and the two musicians who are sitting in the foreground, playing the flute (?) and guitar (?) .

Let us go further and look at the details under the microscope ... or on a computer screen! We increase the scope, neglecting the fireplace and the servant who brings a nice red fruit
tart (so it seems). Also red, and signs of nobility, the heels, the garter and the feather on the black hat of the elegant young man, like his neighbour headgear (cap?). 


But who is this man? Is it a noble member of Parliament? Who is the woman with the blue "pointe d'estopmac"  that he seems to hand point? There is surely something to celebrate. Does the man in red jacket raise his glass in honor of the young woman sitting at the table? Are the
older man and woman at the other end, two peasants parents of the young woman whom the lords pay a visit on the occasion of marriage or engagement? But is it common in such circumstances, to have a dog dancing?

2) When was this leaf made?

If we assume that the realization of the leaft is  contemporary with the depicted scene , reviewing costumes should help somewhat, at least those of the most prominent characters, because we know that the rural costume knew less variations: the most humble characters are no different from those shown by the Le Nain brothers before 1650. Yet here, the hairdresses of the man and woman, with long hair, but relatively flat on top are signs we are before the fashion of  high wigs for men and  "à la Fontange" or even  "Hurluberlu" hairstyles for ladies. The lady's red hat (?) surprises, though.

So our first impulse is to date the scene (and the leaf?) ca. 1670, which is also consistent with the
young women large pearls necklace. But it is quite possible that we are wrong!

3) Is it possible to source this leaf?

Fans connoisseurs know that: it is rare that these objects are truly original. They reproduce often, and genrally adapt, works of art and, especially, engravings. Here we have a priori no identified source, but we rely on our visitors to find it or them!

Simply note that as for the elderly couple -especially the man-, we find some analogy with the works of Jacques Stella (1596-1657), particularly in the Pastorales series engraved by his niece Claudine Bouzonnet-Stella (1641-1697).

On the left you can see - thanks to the Bibliothèques Municipales de Lyon, and their recomended electronic online database- a close-up from 
La veillée à la ferme pendant l'hiver, by Claudine Bouzonnet-Stella after Jacques Stella,  Paris, Galleries du Louvre  (estampe en taille-douce, eau-forte et burin, 24,3 x 31,2 cm)

But "comparaison n'est pas raison"  (comparisons are misleading).

4) Why is this leaf so small?

We own some leaves "au rectangle" and have seen a lot. Some of these are small  like the one we show below but one quickly realizes that this is because only the central scene of the fan leaf has been preserved.

046 Mariage

In the case of leaf we are studying here, the leaf is complete, and the dimensions are really restricted, as you can see.
14,7 cm =  5.79 ' dimensions  9 cm = 3.54 '

For a better understanding... I have put this tiny fan leaf, with its huge 19th century frame on a quite contemporary leaf, this one with an old "à la Berain" frame. I think that this picture says all.

Therefore, if this leaf corresponds to a fan which has been mounted, or should have been, what could be this fan? A "normal" fan? A young girl's one? A fashion doll fan?

This has leaded me to entertain myself by building  an "éventail au rectangle" mixing our two items.  And I think that this marriage is not so bad a match. Just have a look at the picture below.

Dear friends and visitors, from YOU I expect the answer to this question as well as to the previous ones, reasoned of course and if possible supported by photographs. We will gladly publish them, as far as they appear likely to advance discussion and knowledge. 
P.H.B. January 2013

In June 2013, the Italian collector Maita Golfieri, whose hand fans can be admired on her website "I miei Ventagli" ( pointed out a fan leaf she owns and dates back to 1620 (see her page  "Domenichino"). She thinks there could be some relations between our two fan leaves, which are nearly the same size ; albeit the differences of subjects (mythological versus country life), of framing and of datation (but in this field we may be wrong).

This has led me to entertain myself by building  an "éventail au rectangle" mixing our two items.  And I think that this marriage is not so bad a match. Just have a look at the picture below.


So what..? I am only asking a question... and waiting for your answers, dear visitors!

Thank you for writing  (on our Home Page), and do not forgot to go and see our other questions!