Thursday, January 25, 2018

My first 18th century fan

The design is really simple, just carved bone and a plain silk leaf, so I guess there's not much to say about it... except that this is my first ”real” 18th-century fan, dating from the 1790s or somewhere around 1800 and found on eBay some years ago. It surely was very pretty before it started to fall into pieces. I really like the cream and silver colour scheme.

The leaf, made of very, very fine silk, is incredibly thin. Even though it's double it's much thinner than modern paper. As you can see it is falling apart and some pieces are missing. One stick is missing as well and one is damaged. 

This carved design was quite common during this period, my latest find
has a similar pattern.

I have been wondering for some time if it would be worth the bother to have it repaired, and I honestly doubt it. Fans are generally sold for their spare parts at this stage of decay. The thought of stripping the sticks and making a nice new leaf is tempting, but I won't yield to that temptation... for now at least.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Smell the roses pt. II

All right, my Etsy shop is back up and running again, with this sparkling little beauty up for sale. :-)

Saturday, May 27, 2017

18th century day at the Norwegian Folk Museum

Last Sunday, the 22nd, the Norwegian Folk Museum in Oslo went back to the year 1700 (or rather, 1700-ish). The open air museum was filled with music, dance performances and handicrafts from the era and, of course, people in costume from the early to late 1700s as well as national costumes.
So I packed my bags with my best finery and went to my old haunting ground Oslo to meet up with my Norwegian friends and fellow Swedes Madame Nordlund and Madame Westholm.

Outfit of the day: Anglaise and cap by Mme
Nordlund, fan and belt buckle by yours truly, shoes

 from American Duchess and bag by Court Tailor 
Monsieur Kjaerstad, Court Tailor Armand, me, monsieur Fjeldet
and Monsieur Bjerke. Photo: Mathia Leuch

And the Swedish ladies managed to land the front page in the local newspaper Vårt Oslo...

Mme Nordlund, Mme Westholm and I at the market stalls, getting 
tempted by a  brand new book on stays. Photo: Patricia Varela, 
Vårt Oslo
Apparently, King Frederik V himself held a solemn audience outside the museum entrance...

...nevertheless, it was impossible to hear what these guys were saying (despite the oh so modern microphones), so we never even got who was supposed to be the King.

Mathia with her new fan (guess who made it)

Tasty cream waffles

On our way to Gol stave church

A grey and humid morning had turned into a sunny day with scorching heat... and according to Murphy's Law, I had left both my wide-brimmed hat AND my parasol at home! But somehow we survived without ruining our pale skin in the sun.

All in all, it was a very exciting day, full of events and surprises. And beautiful art, costumes and bunader (the Norwegian national costume. I could have owned one of those too if only I had let my late Norwegian grandmother make one for me while she was still going strong with her embroideries and knittings. Oh well...). Oslo was as beautiful as ever in the spring. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to take pictures of everything, cameras were prohibited in some places (and what's more, for some reason, Blogspot will not allow me to upload any more images in this post).

Monday, April 24, 2017

Another new fan

Here's my latest piece of work, based on the design from the most recent find in my collection of antique fans. A printed central vignette and patterns hand painted in white gouache and silver...
I must admit that the fairly sloppy painting on the original leaf was a challenge to reproduce. Modern metallic colours are generally much too thick to allow any light and carefree brushstrokes (to my great annoyance). 
Anyway, this fan is available in my Etsy shop today! More fans are in the making...  :-) 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Oh so shabby

So here is my latest find, the most tattered old thing in my collection. A paper and bone fan most probably dating from the early-to-mid 1790s. Torn, stained and almost falling into pieces, with several broken ribs and one guard stick missing, it was really cheap. As you probably guessed.

But just look at the pretty little stipple engraving of the lady and her little dog under the tree ... And interestingly, the thing still gives off a faint scent of perfume after more than two hundred years. Just like all the other antique fans in my modest collection.

I do wonder what she's carrying in the handle on her arm. It's either a very very long and narrow reticule (er, no) or some kind of wind instrument ... anyone who knows?

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Miniature painting: Do not try this at home ;-)

So, I just put the last hand to a tiny portrait of a familiar face, an old friend of mine in need of a present for her husband's birthday. For those of you interested in miniature portraits, I'd like to share the process behind it all... Or rather, snippets of it. ;-)
This time I'm working on vellum (=calfskin, poor little baby ;-( ), which wasn't the material par préferénce in the 1700s, but it was still used from time to time along with enamel - the favoured material for miniatures of the previous century. Vellum has a nice sheen to it which is comparable to ivory, another not too animal friendly material which was the preferred base for miniatures in the 18th century. (Ivory and vellum can be replaced with synthetic surfaces like ivorine or polymin, by the way.)

Well, here we go..

1. Sketching, sketching... As usual I'm using a photo for reference and drawing according to the classic sight-size method.

2. After cutting the vellum to shape with scissors, I transfer the outlines of the drawing onto the surface using the carbon paper technique... For the first watercolour layer I'm using light blue for the skin and gray for the hair, building up transparent layers of shadows. For midtones and highlights, the vellum should be left more or less blank, making the natural glow of the material shine through.

4. Putting on the first layers of colours... not easy since vellum - like ivory - is a non absorbent surface so one has to keep the brush as dry as possible too keep the separate layers intact. One should always dilute the colours slightly with a good medium (I'm using Eliza Turk's Aquarella) or gum arabic. Be careful with the latter, though, too thick layers of gum arabic can make the colours crack and peel off the surface (been there, done that!)

5. The second layer. Time to do some highlights in pure, opaque white.

6. Done! Kind of...

7. I always prefer to use frames with (convex) glass, but this particular frame didn't have one so I had to use (a non water soluble!) lacquer, a firm backing for the vellum (which has an annoying tendency to warp) and glue. But the glittering paste locket is lovely anyway. :-)

One word of warning though - DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME without prior experience of portrait and/or watercolour painting as well as field studies of original miniature paintings in museums and antique shops - and handbooks (there are several out there). Unless you want an opportunity to invent new swear words... ;-) After all, it's about trying to paint a person's likeness in a tiny scale onto a non absorbent surface, so if you decide to plunge into it - expect a lot of trial and error.

Friday, September 2, 2016

A fan for a man

While the fan has been regarded as a feminine accessory for hundreds of years in the Western world, men who used fans were of course not unheard of in the 18th century. For obvious reasons, this phenomenon was more common in the Mediterranean climate. In Northern Europe, it was usually seen as exclusive to effeminate fops. 

I may have failed to find a picture of an
18th century "man fan". So here's a
picture of a man who definitely did use
fans: Lord John Hervey (1696-1743),
aka "Lord Fanny". Image source:
For example, an Italian who visited Stockholm in the early 1700s stirred some attention when he fanned himself with a small Chinese fan ”in the manner of women”. This attitude seems to have changed as the century progressed, however. Many men bought tourist fans (much like the ones of today) on their Grand Tours and travels, and most of these men probably didn't abstain from using them when they needed to cool themselves off. Fans with hidden erotic motifs also seem to have been popular.

Fans for men are usually described as quite plain, unadorned things which were generally darker in colour than their female counterparts. (Which I find interesting, considering the fact that the 18th century man was not afraid of wearing bright colours, sparkling jewellery and elaborate flower embroideries.) Anyway, during all my years of research, I still haven't come across a ”man fan”– at least not one that has been identified as one of those plain, dark things made specifically for a man. Some examples from previous centuries, like a leather fan that reputedly belonged to Charles I of England have been preserved, but so far I have yet to see one from the 18th century.

Italian "Grand Tour" fan, ca 1790.
Image source:
So when I was assigned with the task to make a fan for my friend Armand, I had to rely on guesswork. Using a set of plain black wooden sticks, I made a leaf out of black laid paper, with a monogram letter and silver sequins as the only decorations. Simple but very elegant.

(And no, the leaf is NOT stained. I just couldn't be arsed to remove the strange dots/dust particles/whatever in Photoshop. The photo happened to be taken in a very haunted house, by the way... ;-) )

Sources: Kulturen 1976- 1700-talet (Kulturen i Lund)
Aristocrats- the illustrated companion to the television series- Stella Tillyard