By Cheryl Bolen
and Emma Taylor
I purchased this book at the Fan Museum in
Greenwich, England, but it is widely available through internet book
sources. Made of high quality with an abundance of color photographs,
the book serves as a reference on European fans and also depicts several
of the fans in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London
(publishers of the book).
Other noteworthy European fans are in the
collection at the British Museum, at Chatsworth House collections
(England), The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Museum of
Fine Arts in Boston, and museums in France, the Netherlands, and
Much of the collection at the V&A was donated by
the Victorian Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820-1877).
Though ladies' fans originated in Japan in the
twelth century, they did not come into use in Europe until the last half
of the sixteenth century. From then until the twentieth century, they
were widely in use, especially during the Georgian period.
Each of the fans pictured in this volume is a
genuine work of art. The same painstaking attention to detail found in
miniatures is found in fan painting, but on a far more extensive
"canvas." The fans were not made of canvas but of velum, silk, or even
The sticks, many of which were imported from the
Orient, were made of pierced ivory, tortoise shell, bone, mother of
pearl, and fragrant sandalwood.
The most popular motifs for the fans were
classical, Biblical, or pastoral in the manner popularized by the
paintings of the Frenchman Antoine Watteau (1684-1721). Also, fans
served as sort of a take-home postcard from places viewed on the Grand
Tour. The books shows, for example, a lovely fan painting of St. Peter's
It was common for a young woman to hold a fan when
presented at court, and in the Georgian era women were most conscious of
"the language of the fan" in flirtations.
Gilt, sequins, and even embroidery, along with
masterful painting could be found on the fans, and cases were made
expressly to hold a lady's fan. There is one illustration of a plain fan
box printed thus: Robert Clarke, 26 Strand, London, Fanmaker to their
Royal Highnesses the Duchess and Prince of Gloucester. It is dated c.
1790. Just about the right date to throw it into one of our novels for