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Fans throughout the History

Thursday, 12 February 2009

fan historyJapan, three thousand years ago: hot summer time, the sun is burning unmercifully, no hint for wind... such a torrid heat in the park of the Emperor Palace that it's hard to breathe. All got stiff in drowsy state, and only the cool fountain water tries to slightly cheer up Von Vank, a young Empress. And the scene is quite ordinary. On refreshing, Von Vank fans herself with a big green leave. A smile of relief on her face appeared and she herself enjoyed her idea. The idea was small in size but brilliant; yet, it was fated to go a long way in the history of customs and traditions. Thus, a fan was invented in accordance with the Japanese legend, at least.

 

And the origin of the fan has not defined yet. Both Chinese and the Indians affirm that they started using fans long before it was made by the Japanese. And the only thing we are aware for certain is that the fan made his brilliant career from the date it is invented. It is quickly metamorphosed from the leaf into the elegant expensive item of the same shape of the leaf. And it turns into the symbol of power from the means of cooling, and there were times when it was enjoyed by only men of quality. A special significance was given to fans at complicated Japanese functions. The shape and style differed from fan to fan depending on the assignment of the above, like a fan for the palace functions, a fan for wars, a fan for dances and that for tea ceremony.

The Assyrians and the Egyptians considered the fan as a symbol of authority and paradise. Just remember Cleopatra who loved luxuriating on the banks of the Nile cooled by light hand-made breeze by the majestic royal fans. Greeks and Romans became the admirers of fans as well. This item rose to the peak of the Olympia and was introduced to the mythology by quite a tender way, as an attribute of Aphrodite, the Goddess of love. It was called «flabellum» in Rome. The fans were made with very long handle that required supplementary help of «flabellifers», the slaves who were mastered in the art to swing the fan gracefully and delicately. It was not easy to use and just shaking was not enough, and this furthered creation of new profession.

Once upon a time a young geisha had struck with a great idea to design her fan folded. She took a piece of rice paper and folded it and this simple step relieved pains of her patron, sick and suffering. And a well-known minion of Pak Chieyu in China wrote a poem on her luxury fan in the 32nd year AC. She used to store this fan in cold seasons and since that time «an autumn fan» became a lyrical keepsake.

Non-folded fans were used by women, and the men used the fans, on the contrary, that were folded in the Far East. The shape and size of fans changed by fashion trends every year; however the number of folded sticks (plates) was always even with the Chinese and odd with the Japanese.

Conquering of Europe

So, what happened to the fan in Europe at the decline of Roman Empire? However, the information available is scanty and confused. And in the XVI century the history gets a bit clear since it was a golden age of painting, and the high-class ladies deem it fashionable to order their gorgeous portrays. Many of them posed with their favorite fans. And these portrays give us the idea and concepts of the vogue for fans of that time.

Along with the folded fans made from parchment, many-colored fans from peacock or ostrich feathers were used. And the fan was hanged to the waist on the golden chain. Nevertheless, the true boom was only coming. In the XVII century the laced fans were made decorated with a mirror or precious stones; fans styled «breeze» performed in thin and elegantly worked up plates of ivory supported from the above by means of stretched tape and a finger-ring from the bottom. The jewelry became more and more fantastic, and real artistic miniatures were painted at the fans. And more precious stones are used, like gold, silver, Bombay ebony, pearl, tortoise shell. Yet, in 1673 Ludwig XIV incorporated a group of masters to make fans whose masterpieces were sold like hot cakes to French coquettes. These saloon ladies by Moliere were merely «funny dreamers» who hide their thoroughly painted faces behind the «shield of innocence».

Love for fans

The greatest flourishing of fans happened by the XVIII century. Being an accessory to the female coquetry, it turned into a secret weapon of seducing, and women made eyes behind its swinging. And the fan appeared to be a communication tool. It furthered the chance to say about majority stuff more expressive and with lesser risk. The cream of the high society of that times that lived a feverish social life, experienced a permanent need in courting, compliments, love stories. And Goldoni was aware of that and he employed in his comedies options of the double meaning game with the help of this love tool.

The XVIII century, the century of free morals, is also famous with its new fans with spicy pictures forbidden for children; with strategic holes made with the purpose to especially and secretly observe people; with complicated mechanisms by means of which a lady could agree to something, make dating, yet these actions could not be translated by others. Serious fans were assigned for solid persons painted by famous artists whose works are still discussed by collectors till up-to-date.

In the XIX and XX centuries the fans were again used as they were assigned for primarily. It was again used for cooling purposes and for making light artificial wind in burning summer evenings.

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