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At The Fan Museum

May 31, 2015
by the gentle author

The Fan Museum in Greenwich is the brainchild of Helene Alexander who has devoted her life with an heroic passion to assembling the world’s greatest collection of fans – which currently stands at over five thousand, dating from the eleventh century to the present day.

In doing so, Mrs Alexander has demanded a reassessment of these fascinating objects that were once dismissed by historians as mere feminine frippery but are now rightly recognised as windows into the societies in which they were made and used, and upon the changing position of women through time.

Folding fan with bone monture & woodblock printed leaf commemorating the Restoration of Charles II. 
English, c. 1660 
(Helene Alexander Collection)

Folding fan (opens two ways) with ivory monture. Each stick is affixed to a painted palmette.
 European (probably French), c. 1670s
 (Helene Alexander Collection)

Ivory brisé fan painted with curious depictions of European figures.
 Chinese for export, c. 1700(Helene Alexander Collection)

Ivory brisé fan painted in the style of Hondecoeter.
 Dutch, c. 1700 (Helene Alexander Collection)

Folding fan with bone monture. The printed & hand-coloured leaf has a mask motif with peepholes. 
English, c. 1730

Folding fan with ivory monture, the guards with silver piqué work. The leaf is painted on the obverse with vignettes themed around the life cycle of one man. European (possibly German)  c. 1730/40 
(Helene Alexander Collection)

Folding fan with ivory monture & painted leaf. 
English, c. 1740s
 (Helene Alexander Collection)

Folding fan with ivory monture & painted leaf, showing Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens.
 English, c. 1750s

Folding fan with wooden monture & printed leaf, showing couples promenading. 
French, c. 1795-1800
 (Helene Alexander Collection)

Folding fan with gilt mother of pearl monture & painted leaf, signed ‘E. Parmentier.
’ French, c. 1860s

‘Landscape in Martinique’, design for a fan by Paul Gauguin. Watercolour & pastel on paper. French, c. 1887

Folding fan with blonde tortoiseshell monture, one guard set with guioché enamelling, silver & gold work by Fabergé. Fine Brussels lace leaf. 
French/Russian, c. 1880s
 (Helene Alexander Collection)

Folding fan with smoked mother of pearl monture, the leaf painted by Walter Sickert with a music hall scene showing Little Dot Hetherington at the Old Bedford Theatre. 
English, c. 1890

Folding fan with tortoiseshell monture carved to resemble sunrays. Canepin leaf studded with rose diamonds & rock crystal, & painted with a female figure & putti amidst clouds, signed ‘G. Lasellaz ’92′. 
French, c. 1892
 (Helene Alexander Collection)

Folding fan with horn monture & painted leaf, signed ‘Luc. F.’
 French, c. 1900

Folding fan with ivory & mother of pearl monture, the painted leaf, signed (Maurice) ‘Leloir.’ 
French, c. 1900
 (Helene Alexander Collection)

Folding fan with mother of pearl monture & painted leaf, signed ‘Billotey.’ 
French, c. 1905
 (Helene Alexander Collection)

Horn brisé fan with design of brambles & insets of mother of pearl. 
French, c.1905
 (Helene Alexander Collection)

Folding fan with Art Nouveau style tinted mother of pearl monture & painted leaf, signed ‘G. Darcey.’ 
French, c. 1905
 (Helene Alexander Collection)

Folding fan with tortoiseshell monture & feather ‘marquetry’ leaf. French, c. 1920

Visit The Fan Museum, 12 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, SE10 8ER

As part of Huguenot Summer you can visit the Fan Museum in the company of Curator Jacob Moss on July 13th

12 Responses leave one →
  1. May 31, 2015

    A wonderful collection! Valerie

  2. Jane permalink
    May 31, 2015

    Beautiful functional pieces of incredible… artwork. Breathtaking!!!
    Thank you!

  3. Caroline permalink
    May 31, 2015

    This collection is absolutely amazing, beautiful, and surprising! it’s so delicate, and show precious craftmanship!
    thank you!

  4. Roger Tiller permalink
    May 31, 2015

    HI WHAT ALOVELY MUSEUM YOU MUST GO THERE IF YOU HAVENT ALREAD’Y.
    I HAVE A LOVELY FAN BUT IT HASEN’T BEEN MOUNTED YET, IT WAS TO COMMEMERATE PRINCE ANDREW AND SARAH FERGUSONS WEDDING in 1986 AND THERE WHERE ONLY 100 MADE I UNDERSTAND ITS VERY COLLECTABLE AND COULD BE WORTH A FEW HUNDRED POUNDS.
    ROGER

  5. May 31, 2015

    Such exquisite beauties, every one! Vibrant colours and subject matter. (And I learned a new word, “monture,” so that’s good!)
    As ever, thank you for your peek into so many wonderful topics.

  6. May 31, 2015

    I don’t think I ever considered the variety before and I certainly didn’t know that the likes of Gaugin and Sickert painted them!

  7. unusualPauline Taylor permalink
    May 31, 2015

    These fans seem to be in perfect condition, have they been restored by any chance? It’s great to see some of the collection though although I have to say that I find the earlier ones far more attractive than those that reflect later tastes. Men also carried fans at the height of dandyism in the C18 I believe.

    Pauline.

  8. May 31, 2015

    fantastic collection. I always think people dont realise what works of art and storytellers fans are. I started to make a bobbinlace fan once. I gave up after a couple of months. It is painstaking work. Thanks for posting this article.

  9. May 31, 2015

    I have never been to the Fan Museum but seeing this selection I’m minded to go. They are bejeweled and wonderful. Thank you!

  10. June 7, 2015

    It is an absolutely delightful little museum, well worth a visit. And if you happen to be there around Afternoon tea time, even better as a delectable spread is provided as you discuss the beauties of the collection.

  11. June 9, 2015

    This is a delightful collection of some of the loveliest fans I’ve ever seen. Thanks so much for making these pictures available to enthusiasts.

  12. September 26, 2015

    I have a dream…visit “The Fan Museum”!
    I’m Mariella, an italian collector of antique fans.
    I would like to thank “The fan Museum” for his beautiful site, a great “virtual” opportunity for study of their fantastic collection.
    I love the antique fans and the great collectors and researchers that have written the antique fans history. Through you I would thank Hélène Alexander
    she taught me, with his books , many things…she does not know and probably will never know, ma she’s for me the “TEACHER”.
    Thanks Hélène Alexander!

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