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Fan depicting 'Blind Man's Buff' c. 1700

Vellum leaf, mounted à l’anglaise; ivory guards reinforced with tortoiseshell; ivory sticks (2 + 21) | 26.0 cm (guardstick) | RCIN 25063

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  • The subject of the fan leaf is the game of Blind Man’s Buff, enacted in Grecian costume. The game has been played by both children and adults from time immemorial. In written accounts it is naturally interpreted as a parable of the folly of love and marriage. In early eighteenth-century France the subject (‘Le Colin-maillard’) had a particular popularity for painters such as Watteau, Lancret and Pater. As the players in the scene shown on this fan leaf are in classical dress, it is likely that the specific subject is a scene from Guarini’s Il Pastor Fido (The Faithful Shepherd), first performed in 1596. The nymph Amaryllis has organised a competition to see which of her maidens is the best kisser. The shepherd Mirtillo (shown here approaching the blindfold Amaryllis from the left) insinuates himself into the party dressed as a woman, and wins the contest. The style of painting on the fan leaf is similar to that in a series of unmounted leaves that have been extended at the corners to form rectangles and have later been framed. The ivory sticks are painted with chinoiserie designs with Oriental figures at the tops of each alternate stick in the gorge. The verso has a plainly decorated leaf with gold-painted pagodas and birds in the gorge below. According to Queen Mary, this fan was ‘Used by Queen Charlotte at Worcester, 1788’ during the royal family’s visit in August of that year. At the time they were staying in Lord Fauconberg’s house at Cheltenham, where it was hoped that the King would benefit from the spa waters. The royal party travelled to Worcester to attend the Music Meeting (subsequently known as the Three Choirs Festival), and to visit the Bishop, Richard Hurd, a close friend of the King. Fanny Burney, who was in attendance on the Queen (as second Keeper of the Robes) at the time, recorded that the arrival of the royal party in Worcester was greeted with ‘a huzza that seemed to vibrate through the whole town’. Although the Cheltenham waters appeared to have worked a cure, in November 1788 the King suffered a recurrence of the illness from which he recovered only early in the following year. Lady Ward, who gave this fan to Queen Mary in 1927, was born Jean Templeton Reid, the only daughter of Whitelaw Reid, formerly American Ambassador to London. Text adapted from Unfolding Pictures: Fans in the Royal Collection 2005
    Provenance

    Reputedly, Queen Charlotte (used at Worcester, 1788); the Hon. Lady Ward; by whom presented to Queen Mary, 1927

  • Medium and techniques

    Vellum leaf, mounted à l’anglaise; ivory guards reinforced with tortoiseshell; ivory sticks (2 + 21)

    Measurements

    26.0 cm (guardstick)