From The Fan Museum: War & Peace Exhibition

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 100 months ago
From The Fan Museum: War & Peace Exhibition
Horn fan, the leaf painted with a man sowing seed in a field still displaying signs of war. Signed van Garden. French, c. 1918/19
Horn fan, the leaf painted with a man sowing seed in a field still displaying signs of war. Signed van Garden. French, c. 1918/19
Mother-of-pearl fan with silk leaf edged in lace painted by R. Wymer with a group of Coldstream Guards at rest. English, late 19th century
Mother-of-pearl fan with silk leaf edged in lace painted by R. Wymer with a group of Coldstream Guards at rest. English, late 19th century
Wooden and steel dagger with wooden sheaf in shape of a folding fan. Japanese, 19th century
Wooden and steel dagger with wooden sheaf in shape of a folding fan. Japanese, 19th century
Fan commemorating the “Five Days of Milan� from 18 to 22 March 1848 and the Unification of Italy
Fan commemorating the “Five Days of Milan” from 18 to 22 March 1848 and the Unification of Italy
Souvenir fan of the Second Boer War (1899-1902), featuring portraits of British generals. c. 1905
Souvenir fan of the Second Boer War (1899-1902), featuring portraits of British generals. c. 1905
Fan leaf painted in gouache commemorating the death of Vicomte Turenne, Marshal of France, in 1675
Fan leaf painted in gouache commemorating the death of Vicomte Turenne, Marshal of France, in 1675
Ivory and mother-of-pearl fan with vellum leaf painted with a scene of Venus watching Vulcan forge weapons. Probably Italian, c. 1700-20
Ivory and mother-of-pearl fan with vellum leaf painted with a scene of Venus watching Vulcan forge weapons. Probably Italian, c. 1700-20

As we've said before, the bulk of the space at our Museum of the Month is taken up with temporary exhibitions, the latest of which began last week. The theme is military - yes, you may do a double take if you like. How do fashion accessories possibly tie in with war and battle? Well, put down your preconceptions a while and step over here.

Many early fans were painted by artists like Rubens and Albani, who often took their inspiration from the Ancients. So we get depictions of Alexander the Great in battle and scenes of Biblical warriors, or flattering a ruler by painting him as a hero of antiquity. As we move through the ages and the fan becomes a thing constantly at ladies' sides (and as they get cheaper), they become a way to show support and patriotism - kind of in the way we wear badges. Fans would celebrate victories or national military leaders, or even a caricature of the enemy.

Or what about the fan itself as a weapon? The third photo in our little gallery shows a Japanese dagger hidden in a fan handle. You wouldn't expect that down a dark alley.

The Fan Museum, 12 Crooms Hill Greenwich. The War & Peace exhibition is held in conjunction with Le Cercle de l’Eventail in France. It runs until 28 February 2010, and there's so much material that early next year the Heritage Centre and Royal Artillery in Woolwich will have supporting exhibitions.

Last Updated 14 October 2009