Hand fan with galant scenes

Author Unknown artist
Title Hand fan with galant scenes
School France
Date 18th century
Material Parchment, gouache. Frame: nacre, carving, gilding
Workshop Paper Сonservation

This folding fan belongs to a group of the best French designs of the first half of the 18th century. Its two-sided screen is painted with gallant scenes in the spirit of the French Rococo painter Antoine Watteau (1684 - 1721). The front side of the fan, which was only appropriate to open in the presence of exceptionally important persons, is painted with a complex composition that combines several scenes, in the centre of which, under a tent stretched out in the open air, a young woman is accepting the courtship of two gentlemen. Around it there are a few pastoral scenes depicting the harvest, walking peasant women and vacationing gentlemen.

The fan had been treated several times in the past, as evidenced by the traces of numerous restorations of the leaves and glued ribs, which used to be assembled in the wrong order (the male figure on the right.)The leaves had been severely deformed due to the shrinking of the parchment. The parchment had lost its elasticity and become brittle with numerous cracks and losses in places where it had been glued. Severe damage on the upper edge of the parchment had been observed in areas with paint containing copper oxides (green, brown), also as the result of glueing. In addition, there had been numerous tears, losses, trances of glue, scratches and abrasions of the paint layer. As for the state of the monture, six ribs had been broken, many had been glued together with cello tape or fragments of ribs from other fans, one rib had been lost almost completely. The broken guards of the fan had been reinforced with corroding metal plates and studs. The pin and the ring are later additions.

At the first stage of the treatments, all the mendings that would not meet the current standards were removed and the broken plates and the guard were dismantled. Then the work was divided between conservators according to the materials of the monture and leaves. The ribs were cleaned, glued together and reinforced. The losses were filled with ivory, mother of pearl and mica using synthetic restoration adhesives.
Working with the leaves was particularly difficult because of the state of the parchment and the paint layer. As the stickers were removed and parts of the leaves cleaned off the glue, the deformation of parchment and paper was fixed. To strengthen the base and fill in the losses, we used water and alcohol-based adhesives and Japanese and rag paper of various density. The heavily damaged edges of the parchment were lined with Japanese paper.

Upon completion of the treatments, the fan was assembled and retouched where it was needed.

The focus of the conservators was to preserve the mobility of the fan, which was done successfully.