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At The Fan Museum In Greenwich

August 2, 2018
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

12 Responses leave one →
  1. Carolyn Badcock permalink
    August 2, 2018

    What incredibly beautiful works of art! The one with the brambles is breath-taking……

    And as for that magnificent building……. It’s all simply heavenly.

    Gentle author, a marvellous post – so thanks, once more, from the Land Down Under.

  2. Jill Wilson permalink
    August 2, 2018

    Fantastic! And fanscinating to see how the styles reflect the fashion and events of the time they were made.

  3. August 2, 2018

    Never used a fan myself. Having seen this blog I’m on the way to being converted.

  4. August 2, 2018

    The History of Costume mavens thank you for this. What a stunning collection — impossible to have a favorite. Loved them all, for so many reasons. Most of all, I am grateful for the preservation of these beautiful graceful accessories. (and happy to know that some of them have signed attributions).

  5. Richard Smith permalink
    August 2, 2018

    Fascinating and great works of art! I love the one with peep holes!

  6. Saba permalink
    August 2, 2018

    The couples walking on striped ground under a polka dot sky!

    The white and red flowers. Done, it seems, as a grisaille that was built up with red and white washes. Beautiful.

  7. August 3, 2018

    they are so beautiful!
    i have some antique fans my great grandmother had that are sort of similar to some of these.
    wonderful for fanning yourself in style 🙂

  8. Debra Matheney permalink
    August 3, 2018

    Thanks. The building is to die for and the “frippery” inside too beautiful for words. Greenwich is such a wonderful place.

  9. L. Brandon Krall permalink
    August 7, 2018

    Wonderful collection… where did you acquired the Gauguin !! I imagine you are in communication with the Worshipful Company of Fan Makers in London? in London
    Of course the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has a renowned collection. My own collection is relatively minor by comparison but also different, a number of Japanese and Chinese the best immaculate carves ivory sticks with embroidered silk leaves, tassel intact in original shaped and painted box, circa 1850s… _+* B

  10. Renia Graham permalink
    August 7, 2018

    What a beautiful and inspiring collection….

  11. mlaiuppa permalink
    August 11, 2018

    I love to hear of small, unique museums. Should I ever get a chance to spend time in London, this will be on my list of places to visit.

  12. Rose Ann Farese permalink
    August 17, 2018

    I work as a Docent at the “Hermitage ” musem,historical site,monument and state Park
    I know that Fans were like texting is today and many messages were sent back and forth according to the way the fan was folded and what body part was emphasized
    These are just beautiful

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