New acquisition: The Devoted to Darcy Fanclub Fan

Text by Mary Cooper, Publicity Officer for The Fan Circle International

This contemporary and original paper fan was painted by the Dutch artist Aafke Brouwer in 1990 for her dear friend Judith Elliott of Windermere, UK. Both were members of the Fan Circle International and Judith had several favourite subjects, one being Jane Austen and her works. The attribution “The Devoted to Darcy Forever Fan Club” was a tongue in cheek reference by Aafke to Judith’s interest and shows how The Fan as a medium for expression can be tailored perfectly as a special gift for a friend. Note the flying horses: Aafke’s noticeable interest related to painting horses and other animals, and Pegasus often featured in her work. The flaming torch and pair of white doves are symbolic of Love. Other examples of this artist’s work on fans have recently come up for auction at Tennants auctioneers in Yorkshire where indeed this fan was purchased by Jane Austen’s House in October 2019.

The early 19th century saw a change in the shape and size of fans. Previously, when dresses were grand and extravagant, fans were relatively large and many featured religious and mythological subjects. These subjects were fashionable, and beautiful detailed paintings of Gods and wonderous creatures were to be seen. In the aftermath of the French Revolution when the wealthy were rather fearful for their safety, outwards signs of extravagance were replaced by simple dress, such as muslin embroidered high-waisted gowns with tiny but beautiful details. To complement this narrower silhouette, fans substantially reduced in size, and details, such as painted flowers, were smaller in scale. Materials used were ivory, bone, horn, even painted card, appearing simple but actually featuring delicate workmanship that would have been expensive in the day. Aafke’s fan is therefore of a smaller form than her usual work, to fit with the Darcy Period.