Hand Fan: The history of a classic

To cool off from summer heat the hand fan is essential. Not everyone knows that for a long time it was the silent accomplice of poignant stories of love.

Hand Fan History

The origins of the hand fan are rather vague. Different classical authors mention it. Euripides narrates in one of his Greek tragedies of a eunuch who fans the wife of Menelaus while sleeping so that she is not disturbed by insects. Italian merchants bought foldable fans from the Far East to Europe in the 15th century which were initially adopted by Venetian courtesans. Catherine de Medici was the first to hand fan in the French Court in 1549 where they quickly became important accessories for both men and women. During Elizabethan times they were used not only as fashion accessories but also as tools with which to exchange secret lovers messages using a secret alphabet.

Hand Fan Language

 Although it is not common knowledge, there is a secret fan language, used by ladies to communicate their intentions to potential suitors. In Spain alone, where fans are still widely used, 55 actions have been identified corresponding to different messages. Below is a selection of some of them: Rapid fanning I love you deeply. Slow fanning means I am a married women and you are indifferent to me. If opened and closed slowly has the same meaning. Closing it slowly means “yes”. If opened and closed quickly it means “careful, I am in a relationship.” Closed quickly means “no.” Made to fall means “I belong to you.” Using it to play with hair or to lift one’s fringe means “I am thinking of you.” Counting the ridges of the fan, or stroking them with one’s fingertips, means “I want to speak to you.” To cover the sun with it is like saying “you are ugly, she doesn’t like you.” To place it on the right cheek means “yes” on the left cheek means “no.” Passing it to your partner is a bad omen. To your mother it means “go away, it’s finished.” Hitting an object with it indicates impatience. Holding a fan open with both hands means “forget about me.” Using it to cover one’s eyes, open it means “I love you”, if it covers the face it could mean “careful, we are being watched.” Covering the face with the fan open means “follow me when I leave.” Half closed placed on the lips means “you may kiss me.” Placed on the lips “I don’t trust you.” Brushed against the cheek means “I am married.” Thrown “I hate you” or “adieu.” Closed “do you love me?” Placed over the ear, the left one means “leave me alone, I don’t want anything from you”, over the right ear “Don’t give our secret away.

How to Preserve the hand fan

One of the best options is to frame them open. The casing should be made with materials that are not acidic. Some leave a pinhole between the lining and the frame to allow the circulation of air, others hermetically seal the casing. It is good practice to take into account the sort of materials used to create the fan before proceeding. Some materials need “fresh air” to remain in perfect condition, such as silk, a fabric that will spoil if preserved in an airtight structure. Never expose the frame in sunlight and ensure a temperature between 15 and 20 degrees Centigrade. If this advice is ignored then it is possible that the paint will start to flake or fold and cracks could appear in the ridges.

Hand Fan Carnet D’addresse

The historic maison specialized in hand fans creation Duvelleroy 17 rue Amélie 75007 Paris (by appointment only); Casa del Diego Puerta del Sol, 12 Madrid; Abanico Andres Pascual Calle de l’Esglèsia 63 Aldaia (Valencia); Abanico Ymbert  Sant Pere Més Alt, 31, pral 2a Barcelona.

The antique shopLucie Saboudjan Le Louvre des Antiquaires, 2 place du Palais-Royal Paris; Le Curieux  Marché Biron, Stand 126, 93400 Saint-Ouen, Paris; Laetitia Georges  Marché Vernaison , Allée 8, Stand 192 bis Saint-Ouen, Paris.

Where restore hand fans:  L’Atelier L’Utile Zephyr Paris Specialized in fan restoration, globe restoration and poster and papers restoration; Atelier Anne Houguet 2, boulevard de Strasbourg 75010 Paris Specialize in fan restoration but also in creation, she works for the luxury french maison, like Louis Vuitton and Hermès  and she realized hand-fans for the couture show for Chanel, Dior, Jean Paul Gautier; Lo scrigno dei ventagli.

Fan Cases:  Fan Display Cases.

Hand Fan Museum: Hand Fan Museum of Healdsburg  327A Healdsburg Avenue Healdsburg California; The Fan Museum  12 Crooms Hill Greenwich London; Musée de l’Eventail  Boulevard de Strasbourg Paris.

History and collection: Antique FansThe Fan Circle InternationalFan AssociatonVentagli

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