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Fan

1810-1825
Origin: America, New England
Total Length: 14 1/2"; Width: 9 15/16"; Diameter of Stick: 1/2"
Wove Paper (Fan Face), Wood (Handle and Internal Support), and Iron Nails, Watercolor, Ink, Gilt Foil (binding)
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1981.310.1
A fire fan constructed from flat, 1/8" thick board cut out in the shape of an open book, with shaping at the top to represent the curves and pointed edges of turning pages. Paper has been glued to the front of the board and watercolored in trompe l'oeil simulation of an open book. Yellow watercolored lines simulate page edges while three separate pieces of cut marbelized paper (one along the right side and two crescent shaped pieces at lower edge) have been glued over the first paper to represent the insides of black and front cover. Thin strips of gold foil have been glued along the sides and bottom to represent the edge of the book's binding. At the top of the lefthand page is a watercolor drawing of two female figures standing outside a brick cottage door; a hooden figure in blue ("Prudence" according to the title bracket below the scene) turns toward a young, dark- brown haired woman in a yellow dress ("Beauty" by same identification) as if restraining her. Beyond them is a peacock on the ground, with a green valley beyond, and a red and blue flowering plant in the foreground.

The title "Prudence to Beauty" is inscribed in the reserve beneath the painted vignette; below the reserve is the following poem: "1/Oh! for a moment but attend,/Nor spurn me tho' I'm old;/For trust me--thous an honest friend,/In Prudence dost behold./2/Let virture, be thy greatest pride,/She'll add to every charm;/And while possess'd of such a guide,/No vice can do thee harm./3/Life to the view's a pleasant way,/. . . dangerous to youth;/. . . astray,/. . . truth." [Ellipses represent areas where the poem is obscured by the simulated turning of the magazine's pages].

On the righthand "page" is the following: "A Rebus./A Hero by Achilles slain;/A Tuscan prince soon met his doom;/ A sign the zodiac will produce;/A metal that's of general use;/The daughter of a Trojan king;/A mount that poets often sing;/ Those games the ancients did celebr/ate;/A flower for fragrance none adequate;/A Carthage queen to consumate;/These initials conceiv'd, and conjoin'd/you'll declare,/'Tis the name of an instrument us'd by the fair." Below the rebus is the following: "Puzzle. /A moral distich may be formed, by in-/ serting one and the same vowel in proper/ places, among the following consonants./ Prsvryprfctmn,/Vrkpthprcptstn."

In the far right margin, on a partially obscured page's outermost edge, are written "land,/mand,/ severe,/dear;/rest./left:/mourn,/return./ dead,/fled;/lights/eyes,/glow./woe--/mourn,/ return./wars,/sides--/Mars,/sides;/spears,/ head;/fears,/While leaning on his spade./His right hand Aries/His . . . ."
[See Notes]

The reverse of the board is covered with a solid pink paper that wraps around the board edges in the front, its edges being hidden by the gold foil. Seven short strips of gold foil placed horizontally along the book's "spine" simulate tooling of a leather binding. In ink, spaced between the foil strips, are the words "Magazine" and "Vol. I." The pink paper covers a rectangular area, leaving the shaped portion of the upper board for interpretation as the top page edges; these are covered with a separate piece of paper watercolored in simulation of page edges.

A turned wooden handle 7 1/4" long is fitted to the lower edge of the fan by nails that secure the board into the slot cut in the handle to receive it.
Artist unidentified.
Label:Hand-held fire fans were fashionable accessories used to shield feminine faces from the direct heat of open fires. Commercially produced fans could be purchased but often young women preferred to craft their own versions as personal gifts or keepsakes, as appears to have been the case with this example.
Humorously created in the form of a trompe l'oeil "magazine," this fan further entertained its drawing room audiences with an illustrated poem, a fanciful rebus requiring one to construct "the name of an instrument us'd by the fair" and, finally, a word puzzle.
The rebus on the fan spells out the word "harpsichord," if the following line responses are given: Hector (a hero); Agamemnon (a Grecian general); Romulus (an Emporor); Porsena (a Tuscan prince); Sagittarius (a Zodiac sign); Iron (a metal); Cassandra (the daughter); Helicon (a mount); Olympic (ancient games); Rose (a flower); and Dido (a Carthaginian queen).
A "distich" is a strophic unit or unit of verse consisting of two lines; the "moral distich" formed by the puzzle reads as follows when the vowel "e" is inserted: "Persevere ye perfect men. Ever keep the precepts ten."
Provenance:Unknown owners prior to Don and Faye Walters, Goshen, Indiana. The inscription on the back of the fan attributes the initial creation and ownership to either a Miss Dawes or a Mrs. Ingersoll.
Inscription(s):On the verso (or back "cover") in pencil in script is "Mrs. Ingersoll/in remembrance of/ Miss Dawes," and on the magazine "spine" in block lettering in ink is "Magazine/Vol. I."