Sunday, June 13, 2010

Women are armed with fans as men with swords,

and sometimes do more execution with them.
If you have been reading this blog awhile, you know that a recent purchase will set me off on a research journey.

So it was with this week's purchase of some fans.
Fans date back to 2nd century China in Asia, with the Chinese character for "fan" (扇) derived from a picture of feathers under a roof. The Chinese fixed fan, pien-mien, means 'to agitate the air'. Fans were part of the social status for the Chinese people. A particular status and gender would accord a specific type of fan to an individual. During the Song Dynasty, famous artists would often be commissioned to paint picture on the surface of a fan.

Fans are depicted in ancient Greek pottery motifs.

I picture Cleopatra with the large fans keeping her cool.

The folding fan that most of us are familiar with dates to 8th century Japan. Fans were not common in Europe except in some religious ceremonies to keep the insects off the bread and wine, but in the 1600s the folding fan became popular with the aristocracy. Here is Queen Elizabeth with an elaborate feather fan.

And that brings me to the quote that opened the essay..."Women are armed with fans as men with swords..." This was part of a letter written to The Spectator , a daily publication of 1711–12, founded by Joseph Addison and Richard Steele in England. The goal of The Spectator was "to enliven morality with wit, and to temper wit with morality... to bring philosophy out of the closets and libraries, schools and colleges, to dwell in clubs and assemblies, at tea-tables and coffeehouses." One of the principal conceits of The Spectator is its fictional narrator, Mr. Spectator. Mr. Spectator speaks very little, communicating mainly through facial gestures. His unassuming profile enables him to circulate widely throughout society and fulfil his position as "spectator". Based on research "he comments on the habits, foibles and social faux pas of his fellow citizens. He also notes the irony of his volubility in prose compared to his taciturnity in daily life." The character received letters much like Dear Abby, and one dealt with ladies and their fans.

Mr. Spectator, To the end, therefore, that ladies may be entire mistresses of the weapon which they bear, I have erected an Academy for the training up of young women in the Exercise of the Fan, according to the most fashionable airs and motions that are now practised at court. The ladies who carry fans under me are drawn up twice a day in my great hall, where they are instructed in the use of their arms, and exercised by the following words of command :
Handle your Fans, Unfurl your Fans, Discharge your Fans, Ground your Fans. Recover your Fans, Flutter your Fans.

Despite the fact that fans were supposedly used for secret communications, it appears that it was just a marketing ploy. Actually fans turned into walking advertisement in America...interesting how we Americans can find a way to advertise on anything!!! I found a web site dedicated to had a unique chart that pictured different types of fans.
This is another one of the fans I is a souvenir piece.

This is a Japanese fan...hand painted...can you imagine the time it took to do this! The silk is worn in some parts, but it is still a wonderful piece of art.

So, as the summer heats up, we should be grateful for electricity and AC...

But...taking fan in another direction...actually fanatic, I have set up The Dutch Rose on Facebook, and if you are on FB, you can search for The Dutch Rose and become a Fan there! I will be posting shop pictures weekly as things come in, but I will still do the weekly show and tell here! As I often say to folks in my shop, if you don't buy something, maybe you learn something, and isn't that priceless?


Patricia said...

Another great informative piece, Susan. I love fans and the mystery around them. Just seems so elegant, I think. Of course, when I resorted to the use of a fan it was anything but elegant--it was necessity with my mini tropical vacations!
Patricia Rose-A Potpourri of Fabric, Fragrance and Findings

Just a bed of roses said...

I'm definitly a Fan of your blog to come learn and this is no exception. I kind of envied Cleopatra being fanned by that hunk of a man by her side!

We were just commenting on how cold it is, like 20 degrees below no fans on as of yet.

Alway remember purchasing a fan from some little summer vacation as a child, made in japan usually.

Glad to be a fan of yours...brenda

gail said...

Hi Susan.. Fans are popular out here in the desert! What a great post. Always something to learn here. :) I hope you have a great week. Is the tourist season in full swing yet? Hope its a great summer for you.
Have a pretty day, Gail

Marie said...

Hi Susan,
I have always loved fans. As usual your information is fascinating. Thanks so much. Marie