Sunday, September 6, 2015

We're Back - with a Trio of Lovely 19thc. Fans

Sunday, September 6, 2015
Isabella reporting,

We're back! Loretta and I hope you enjoyed your break as much as we did, though we know that you didn't neglect us entirely while we'd gone fishin'.

How do we know? Because according to our stats, last month you continued to visit this blog even while we were away, making us pass the amazing (at least we are amazed!) milestone of three MILLION page views since our launch five years ago. As we've often said, we began this blog to amuse one another, never dreaming that there'd be so many of you willing to come along for our meandering ride. We're so glad you did, and thank every one of you for your continuing support.

While I was away, I visited one of my favorite small museums, the RISD Museum in Providence, RI. As part of the Rhode Island School of Design, the museum was founded in 1877. At the time, Rhode Island was one of the most heavily industrialized regions in the country, and the museum's founders hoped to inspire better design in manufacturing in general as well as inspiring their students. As the liberal arts in modern colleges and universities are facing charges of irrelevancy in a high-tech world, it's ironic that these 19th c. New Englanders understood that even the manufacturers of humble screws and files would benefit from viewing the finest examples of painting, sculpture, and decorative arts. (Read more about the museum's mission and history here.)

One of my favorite galleries in this favorite museum is the Donghia Study Center. Here pieces from the sizable Costumes and Textiles collection are rotated through the large, flat glass-topped drawers. I never know what I'll find when I roll out a drawer: a 17thc. knitted waistcoat from Italy, a length of a 20thc. African textile, high-button shoes or beaded flapper hats. For someone like me who's fascinated by the history of clothing, it's one discovery after another, and it's probably just as well I was the only one there that day so that I could ooh and ahh without disturbing anyone else.

Among the treasures this visit were an assortment of 19thc. fans. Readers who follow my Instagram account - which can be found here - will recognize this trio, since I already shared my own pictures the day I saw them. These photos of the fans are from the museum's web site, without the necessary protective glass over them. They seem like both the perfect way to wave good-bye to summer's heat, and as elegant examples of transforming a mundane necessity in pre-air-conditioning days into a beautiful fashion accessory.

Top left: Brisé fan, George Keiswetter for the Allen Fan Company, American, c. 1890. Painted feathers, wood sticks, silk ribbon. 
Right: Nosegay fan, Marie Vincent for S.Levy, manufacturer, French, c. 1898. Silk with wooden sticks.
Lower left: Folding fan, unknown artist, Japanese, 19thc. Painted paper, wood sticks.
All fans from collection of RISD Museum; all photographs via RISD Museum.


Gwen in Michigan said...

Are you going to tell us at least one "fish story" from your vacation? We missed you and these fans are wonderful!

sumbookfreak said...

I would love to see how this is constructed. The flowers look so full but must be positioned in such a way that the fan opens and closes smoothly.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Sumbookfreak, I wondered that, too. Fortunately there are more pix of the back of the fan and of it closed on the RISDMuseum site that offer a few clues. It's wonderful closed - almost like a bouquet - but construction must have been very calculated to make it work.

Karen Anne said...

How clever that it looks like a bouquet closed. A work of art.

Isabella Bradford/Susan Holloway Scott said...

Gwen, I'm afraid the kind of "fishin'" that Loretta and I do involves lolling about with good books, strolling along the beach, and the random trips to museums and historic sites. Not many fish stories to tell there! I will, however, share some of the things I saw over the next weeks, even if there will be nary a fishy tale among them. ;)

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