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

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A 1790's fan

Well, I'm back, after a rough year with house moves, a book release (not 18th century related, but you can read about it here) and a big art exhibition, to mention just a few things. And even though I haven't been able to attend more than two costume events during this time (!), I have managed to make myself at least one new fan, based on an original from about 1790...

It started with this lovely little thing that I won on Ebay a few years ago. (as you can see in my earlier posts, I have made two other fans based on this design, but I never tried to make a full reproduction of it before.)

I like that hat :-)
I have no idea of its country of origin, it was bought from Ireland so perhaps it is British. Anyway: it has a double paper leaf with a plain white reverse side and sticks of cattle bone. The leaf is adorned with a stipple engraving of what appears to be a dairymaid resting by a tree, and sewn-on sequins, Just like the other fans in my small collection, it is quite tattered. The leaf has stains, the right guard stick is broken and the once golden sequins have turned into a matte verdigris. I hope it would be possible for an expert to restore it to its former glory someday, but since antique fans shouldn't be used anyway I was determined to make a reproduction of it. Or the leaf at least, since I couldn't make a replica of the sticks.

I used a set of plain bone sticks from the late 19th or early 20th century. The vignette is a printed photo of the engraving, and the patterns are hand painted.

My inkjet printer is quite good really, but
this copy still ended up a lot paler than  the
original engraving... :-/

The result is pretty, albeit not quite as pretty as the original must have been about two hundred years ago. Because of the modern paper (which is always too thick, no matter how thin it may seem) and the bone staves which are also a bit thick, it is MUCH heavier than the original fan. My copy has a few other flaws as well, but I'm still glad I finished it - as a matter of fact I started working on it back in 2014...!