The Golden Age of Fans

photo0126Today I went to see an exhibition The Golden Age of Fans, it is in the Marais, in a small, inexpensive museum called Cognacq-Jay. What I enjoyed most about it were all the old ladies that came to see it, shuffling around, whispering about the fans their grandmothers used to have. Did I learn anything? It’s hard to tell. I saw a very interesting fan with pornographic images: the images were too small to see without a magnifying glass; fortunately the museum supplied a very nice one. So I was lining up with the old ladies to study the miniatures…. No, I haven’t learned anything new that way….


Yet there was a piece of information that has shocked me: Most of the XVII and XVIII century fans were first painted as regular pictures, and then cut and folded! They even offered a few examples. If you look carefully at the painting above, you’ll be able to see the outlines for such a cut already projected onto the canvass.

Also see  Secret Language: Fanning at Versailles.


About versaillesgossip, before and after Francis Ponge

The author of the blogs Versailles Gossip and Before and After Francis Ponge, Vadim Bystritski lives and teaches in Brest France. The the three main themes of his literary endeavours are humor, the French Prose Poetry, the French XVII and XVIII Century Art and History. His writings and occasionally art has been published in a number of ezines (Eratio, Out of Nothing, Scars TV, etc). He also contributes to Pinterest where he comments on the artifiacts from the Louvre and other collections. Some of his shorter texts are in Spanish, Russian and French.
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9 Responses to The Golden Age of Fans

  1. DianaC says:

    Indeed, fans had a far greater importance in those times. Now with the air conditioning and all that they are far less used, yet still incite a certain interest in some.
    But then they were true pieces of art! It is most delighting to notice all differences between epochs through the seemingly unimportant details!
    Likewise the gloves were a proof of social status, they had to match the event, they had all sorts of details encrusted whereas today are generally used against low temperatures.
    Thank you for sharing your experience!

    • Today at a Versailles boutique — forgot its name, right next door to the palace, you can buy some interesting gloves: one pair– leather bottom and sued-leather top, is even perfumed with talc.

  2. Regina says:

    A long time ago, I purchased almost intact, an entire collection of Fans from the 17-20thC – mainly of European with a sprinkling of Chinese. Guards carved of Ivory so minutely, intricate in detail, gilt or silvered and some polychromed…a crystal or precious stone to gather all the picks. Skin, gauze, paper or lace…spangled with gold or leafed in same…from Boucher to Biblical scenes.
    Fans were meant to SPEAK. With a flick of the wrist you could seduce, summon or dismiss. A great Rare book is the HISTORY OF THE FAN by Rhead circa 1910, an edition of 450.
    The Lost World of the Fan – perhaps the original Text Message…hands silently conveying a message in a room to another without a word spoken!

    • Ah, collections! There is… what’s its name? a hotel in Venice with a collection of fans and crucifixes and corkscrews…. I was a collector once once myself, a long time ago, back when everyone was; or so it seems, probably because when you collect, you tend to hang out with other collectors, like in that film by Eric Rhomer, “Collector:” well, we can collect people too.

  3. Regina says:

    A dis EASE that now seems eradicated by World currencies gone mad and masses uninformed! Yes, an ANTIQUE word indeed! I seemed to have never found the vaccine.

    • At the Louvre now they exhibit Robert Wilson’s “Living Room,” which is pretty much his private collection; so, I went to look at it, and I first thought that it would look great somewhere at an East LA Art Walk, but in the context of the Louvre it was a strategic mistake; then I decided that he probably meant it this way — contributing to the Nobility of Failure rubric; therefore, we are in good company: it’s an old and venerable tradition — even Vivant Denon had his small private collection, funny as hell, but we cannot take ourselves too seriously. He certainly didn’t, and look he has one of the wings named after him. A collection is like a small private theater, a doll house Ingmar Bergman once showed us with three-inch opera singers performing “The Magic Flute.” It belonged to a vampire, and those creatures don’t expose themselves and propagate through a bite, and I wonder if a collection isn’t something like that — a kind of installation for a impossible gaze, and an attempt at an alternative life cycle.

  4. Regina says:

    Quoted so esoterically…ripe with Vampires, Restoration divas of the 19thC and of course East LA…where ALL roads lead too, evidently even from Versailles! Hope you found a good taco stand there…but then, we ALL have our favorite Taqueria – even the internet has a site dedicated to the BEST for devotees up and down the coast of California! I suppose Tacos are a consumable collectible!!

    • Petrim Sorokin meant once something like your principle of limits: civilizations are supposed to fluctuate within that — I no longer remember what; but for me it is all just a written landscape, the kind Fu Shu described so well and so many Chinese scholars used in the days of Qing Dynasty.

  5. Regina says:

    Hotel Metropole, Venice, Italy

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