Elegant Accessories: 1890s Zaborowska Fan

By Special Guest Blogger

December 6th, 2010

Today’s guest blogger is hand-fan collector Anna Checcoli, whose Ventagli.org is a member of our Hall of Fame.

This double-leaf folding hand fan from 1897-1899 features hand-painted cabretille (vellum) on the front and silk on the back. It was handmade and signed by the painter Gabrielle Zaborowska, who was born in Paris in 1852 (we don’t know when she died). Zaborowska was her married name—previously, she went by G. Eylé, which was the name she signed when working for Duvelleroy and other famous fan-making maisons.

Most of Zaborowska’s fans had bucolic themes or were pastiches, according to the fashion and taste of the day. This rare example reveals her Symbolist style, recalling the influence of Gustav Klimt and other painters of that school. This fan was surely painted on commission for an engagement or love declaration, and the depicted female figure is certainly a faithful portrait of the woman who received it as a gift.

The topic of this fan is based on a famous legend, described in the “Almanac” of 1889: “The thistle: in St. John’s eve a young woman tears a thistle and buries it. At the dawn of the day after, she exhume it and look if the flower is white or colored inside. If white, no hopes. If colored, better if vividly, she will get married soon.” The thistle is thus a symbol of beauty protected by the strength, of powerful male energy defending delicate female energy. It is meant to inspire courage and—according to this legend, anyway—allow a woman to know if she is loved by someone who doesn’t dare reveal his feelings.

2 comments so far

  1. Wendy Schaefer Says:

    I have found a hand painted hand fan in good shape that says “Albert 1890” on it. Any idea who this Albert is?

  2. Thomas DeLeo Says:

    In response to the query about “Albert 1890” by Ms Schaefer, Felix Albert was a late 19th c French painter who was frequently a copiest of other artists. He worked for the evcentailiste Kees There is a fan called “Golden Wedding” ca. 1880 in the catalog FANNING THE SENSES from The Fan Museum, London 2007.

Leave a Comment or Ask a Question

If you want to identify an item, try posting it in our Show & Tell gallery.