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