Fun Facts about Fans
LADY WINDERMERE. Arthur, if that woman comes here, I shall insult her.
LORD WINDERMERE. Margaret, don’t say that.
LADY WINDERMERE. I mean it.
LORD WINDERMERE. Child, if you did such a thing, there’s not a woman in London who wouldn’t pity you.
LADY WINDERMERE. There is not a good woman in London who would not applaud me. We have been too lax. We must make an example. I propose to begin to-night. [Picking up fan.] Yes, you gave me this fan to-day; it was your birthday present. If that woman crosses my threshold, I shall strike her across the face with it. (Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde)
In 1878, Mr. George Augustus Sala wrote in the 'Catalogue of the Fan-makers' Exhibition at Drapers' Hall "If a thorn was the first needle, no doubt a palm leaf was the first fan."
Leaf-shaped fan of plaited reeds found during archaeological digs are related to third millennium BC.
In ancient Rome fans were called "flabellum", they were made with a long handle and required special slaves "flabellifers", who had learned the art of waving the fans gracefully and delicately.
Chinese folding fans were brought to Portugal with Marco Polo expeditions along the Great Silk Road in the 14th century, although the height of their popularity falls within the Renaissance time period.
A fan could cost a fortune - Madame de Pompadour possessed one which cost 9 years of labor and £6000. It was made of paper most artfully cut to imitate lace and painted with miniatures.
The legend has it that in the 16th century Duchess of Mantua had a fan, decorated with rare emeralds. When the Duchess needed cash, she gave it as collateral to a Milan bank. At that time fans, with handles with a secret compartments for poison, were in great demand.
In the 16th century fans were introduced in France by the Italian parfumers who came n the train of Catherine de Medicis. In Italy and Spain men and women carried fans.
27 fans were enumerated in the inventory of Queen Elizabeth's wardrobe after her death.
In Egypt and Chine screen fans were carried as standarts of war in the 12th century BC.
In theater actors often wrote the text of a play on a fan.
The Language of the Fan was a necessity for the high society, living hectic social life in the Galant Era:
resting the fan on one's lips: "I don’t trust you"
fanning herself with her left hand: "Don’t flirt with that woman"
In the late 17th century fan-making became an important industry in England. In the year 1709 the Company of Fan-Makers as incorporated by letters patent from Queen Anne. So large and important it became, that a writer in the "Westminster Journal" in 1751, proposed a tax upon fans manufactured in the country, which would produce a revenue of £30,000 per annum.
"There is a fan case with a label on which announces that "Robt. Clarke, Fan-Maker to their Royal Highnesses the Duchess and Princess of Gloucester, at his Warehouse No. 26 Strand, near Charing Cross, is sole proprietor of the Fanology, or Conversation Fan; with these Fans Ladies may Converse at a distance on any subject without Speaking."
check out Ladies with Fan Japanese Ukiyo-e Prints
Unknown Artist. Young Queen Elizabeth of England 1601-02 at the age of three (right), at the age of five (left) and at the age of six (middle)