Tiziano Vecellio, born in Pieve di Cadore (1488-1576) and a renowned figure in the Venetian Renaissance pictorial scene, gave life to a precious chromatic luminosity with his mysterious paint mixtures, inspired by the memory of his beloved Cadore mountains, covered in blissful, white snow and embellished by the thousand colourful reflections of a timeless city overlooking the water.
Perfectly capturing its light and shaping each figure with warm, embracing brush strokes, he highlighted their exquisite dresses and the rich, shiny draperies that drew attention to velvet, silk or damask, with their marvellous shimmering tonalisms, such as silvery-white, brightened up by the golden lace borders of that dress his daughter Lavinia wore on her wedding day. The young bride with blonde, braided hair, portrayed with pure white pearls as a symbol of purity, elegantly holds up a golden lace “flag” fan, fixed to a wooden shaft with unique carvings.
This delicate, fine painting from the mid-Sixteenth Century, “Ritratto di Signora in abito bianco” (Portrait of a lady in a white dress), displayed at the Gemaelde Galerie in Dresda, brought into fashion a truly ancient object, a regular feature of royal outfits in ancient civilisations from Egypt to China and Japan. Throughout the centuries, after reaching Europe, it had established itself as a must-have among women’s accessories, a way to express one’s luxury and belonging to a particular social class.
An ephemeral status symbol that quickly became essential to ladies in high society in the festive and slightly frivolous spirit of the Rococo period, especially when attending theatres, cafés and casinos, where it was great for hiding any malicious acts and blushing cheeks, sending secret love messages or freshening up during the hot Sirocco winds.
Hand-held fans... an emblem of royalty, luxury and sacredness that came back into the light for the more cheerful and international atmosphere of the Belle Epoque.
Hand-held fans... members of rare Collections, like the one that winds its way through the gallery of Hotel Metropole, leading us on a sophisticated and intriguing journey into the past with its black and white colours, sparkling satin and feathers, painted lace and silk, tulle, sequins and mother of pearl.
An impeccable selection of precious hand-held fans of breath-taking beauty, hosted within the building that treasures the memory and passion of the great musician Antonio Vivaldi, of his most remarkable concerts, and of the singing and violins of the Putte of the Ospizio della Pietà. And today, Hotel Metropole appears before the city and its guests in a new, improved guise. Notes and arpeggios still echo through the mirrors, red velvets and dim lights, lifting our spirits and bringing comfort; there’s only room for the newly rediscovered beauty and harmonious dance steps that reignite life after a long, sad time of silence, solitude and pandemic stillness.
THREE FANS FROM THE COLLECTION
Hand-held fans were amongst the Oriental gems that reached Venice from the faraway Silk Road. At first in the shape of mostly round flags fixed to a shaft handle and, at a later time, composed of foldable sticks, upon which the so-called leaves were placed, turning this item into a delicate, precious and versatile emblem of luxury and sacredness, that became an essential accessory for women’s fashion throughout the following centuries.
A 200 AD verse, composed during the Han Dynasty reads, ‘…a piece of silk, white as snow, was cut to make a fan, round like the moon…’
These two samples from the Beggiato Collection are a rather interesting and fascinating creation.
As we can see in the picture, the leaf boasts an outlining contour and an unexpected non-round shape, with a rigid netting mesh that serves as a fabric weave, embroidered with “Gobelin” needlepoint colourful flower bouquets.
This ancient technique, born in France during the Seventeenth Century and often used in the production of precious fabrics and tapestries, was also known as “needle painting”, and should be admired from a distance to truly appreciate the depth of the three-dimensional image.
In 1700, French emperors had safeguarded fan production by encouraging the rise of many small shops that became well-known for the variety and refinement of their creations, thus promoting a branch of the applied arts that caught the attention of enthusiastic and curious European painters and launched fruitful trades and cultural exchanges with the Lands of the Rising Sun, especially since Japanese borders opened to the world in the mid-Nineteenth Century.
The elaborate research and experimentation involving folding fans gave life to beautiful gems, thanks to the use of precious materials both for their radially-arranged supporting sticks made of mother of pearl, ivory, lacquered and carved wood, and for the leaves, which boasted exquisitely painted paper, embroidered silks, lace, tulle and sequin, shiny satin, as well as feathers from exotic birds such as ostriches, peacocks, pheasants and many others.
A beat of wings... a small, ethereal, fragile and unique fan.
We’re picturing it between the delicate, pale fingers of a little princess at a wedding banquet. Perhaps.
The semi-round, lightweight tulle leaf unfolds on thin, golden sticks, brightened up by sparkling sequins that adorn its centre, where a dusty-blue butterfly spreads its wings. A real gem.
Bird feathers entirely compose the fan’s heart-shaped leaf. Individually decorated with colourful, little flowers and tiny insects, dragonflies and butterflies. A special fan, hand-crafted with real expertise that recalls a delicate watermark effect painted over the thin threads of the aerial, white feathers.
Throughout the first decades of the Nineteenth Century, the trend of feather fans was spreading all around the United States: ostriches, peacocks, exotic birds and voluminous, colourful feathers with a picturesque effect. They were most successful during the International Expositions that the largest American and European capital cities arranged in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century. Large production carried on, and feather fans made a shining appearance in theatre and cabaret choreographies.
Those were the times of Art Nouveau style, which made its way into all of the Applied Arts, giving life to a pleasant revival of nature, in a luxurious aestheticism of colours, gold and reflections, from fabrics to décor, from skilful glass manufacturing to elegant crockery, mirrors and jewellery and, of course to the creation of our vibrant and, perhaps, peculiar and magnificent, fans.
The happiness she felt while living in Venice encouraged Daniela Simionato-Putz to explore each and every corner of her city and her lagoon, studying and giving life to interesting, innovative paths of history and art that she shared to the world through her successful books. Moreover, after years teaching History of Art, she started working with several cultural associations in the city such as FAI and Amici dei Musei e Monumenti Veneziani (Friends of Venetian Museums and Monuments).