Fans Glorious Fans
Italian Late 18th Century Fan
19th Century Italian Fan
Fans were mass-produced by the second quarter of the 19th century and became affordable to the general public that had long regarded the trappings of the rich with envy. Here in the United States the inventor Edmund Soper Hunt was the first to develop a machine for folding fan leaves and gluing them to the sticks all in one process (1866). As a result, fans almost became regarded as commonplace articles, one more aspect of the industrialization of the period. Yet in spite of the success of the factory belt, many small workshops continued to create individualized fans by special order, and again looked to French designs with all their lighthearted appeal.As a cheaper alternative to handpainting, various types of prints such as etching, engraving, woodcut and lithography were incorporated touched up by hand with swift brushstrokes. Oriental lacquered fans became popular, often made entirely of sticks and decorated with Chinese Court Scenes and flowers.
As the century drew to a close, souvenir fans became popular reminders of dream vacations or special occasions such as the dedication of the Eiffel Tower in 1889. Post impressionists jumped on the bandwagon, with Degas and Pissarro offering bold designs that focused on hot splashes of color, a far cry from traditional and painstaking decorations of the past.
Princess Diana's Wedding Fan
The 20th century is regarded as an age of the spectacular, with large ostrich plumes and sterling silver leading the fashions, as shown in the star of this exhibition: a fan created to commemorate the wedding of the lovely Lady Diana Spencer to Charles Prince of Wales. Only twenty five such fans were created for this outstanding British Royal occasion and of those, three are here in the United States. That the fan collection at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art contains one of the three, exemplifies the rarity and quality of its fan collection as a whole.