THANK YOU AND GOODBYE, KARL LAGERFELD
As a result of a random encounter at a bookstore in Berlin at the beginning of Parkstone International in the 1990s, Karl Lagerfeld, an aficionado of fans, was kind enough to write an introduction to one of our first publications, entitled Fans.
The text below is the Introduction from the book Fans:
In the 19th century, fans were to women what the sword was to men: an ‘instrument of persuasion’. That at least is how the society of the day described an object that had become, in women’s hands, the ‘armed hand’ of seduction. However, there is a whole history to tell before we reach that point. In ancient times, the heavy, muggy heat of Egypt forced Pharaohs to take refuge in the gentle breeze created by a palm leaf that was held by a slave whose sole job was to take care of his divine master’s well-being.
For a long time, the fan retained this role as a ‘wind-maker’. Even the great designer Karl Lagerfeld, in his writings about this beautiful object, dedicates his work to Aeolius, the Greek god of the winds. Although it long gave up its role as an item of any practical use, the image of the fan has always been associated with pleasant notions such as relaxation, rest, languor and even bodily or spiritual abandonment. So this elegant object became the reflection or expression of a certain kind of sensuality, a feeling of attraction for others, and a voluptuous way of life.
Painted fans originated in Japan and China. They arrived in Europe via Portugal and Spain in the 16th century. The fashion of the centuries, which followed very soon made it an indispensable element of feminine dress. In 1770 there were more than 150 craftsmen making fans in Paris. Painters painted innumerable portraits of women who were almost always depicted carrying this elegant accessory…
The ‘wind-maker’ had become an object of beauty, used in the service of flirtation, bringing great pleasure to male lovers, since women knew how to use the fan to convey far more than its original function as a creator of cool breezes could have suggested. In skilful hands, the fan became a messenger of love, to the great detriment of duennas, tutors, cuckolded husbands and other jilted lovers, whom a simple movement of this small object could plunge into despair…
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