Folding fan with a scene of card players in a fashionable interior

c. 1740–1760
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General Description

Wendy and Emery Reves's fan collection was one of their most distinguished areas of collecting and was of particular interest to Wendy Reves. She collected nearly 110 examples dating from the early 18th to the early 20th century. The more than thirty fans now in the Dallas Museum of Art's collection represent the core of her 18th-century holdings.

Throughout the 18th century, scenes of daily life were extremely popular as fan motifs. The Reves Collection contains several fine examples of this genre, including this fan. Here, the painter has depicted well-dressed members of the upper class in various leisure pursuits inside a grand rococo-style interior. In the center, three play at cards; others read or frolic with pets. To the left is a stool supporting sheet music and a lute, representing the enjoyment of music. Flanking this central scene are two vignettes of children exploring the outdoors. The division of the fan leaf's surface into multiple areas is typical of many examples made at mid-century or later. This practice allowed the painter to depict various aspects of daily life simultaneously. On this fan, the theme of play is carried out by both children and adults side by side.

The fan's verso is painted with floral borders, while its sticks and guards are pierced and painted with symbols of romantic love. The central figures are Hercules and Omphale, queen of Lydia. Having completed his twelve labors, Hercules agrees to sell himself into slavery for one year in order to find peace upon his return to Thebes. Omphale purchases Hercules and has him serve as a lover. Supposedly, Omphale so dominated the manly Hercules that rumors reached Greece that he had begun to dress as a woman and to weave and spin with the queen's attendants. Consequently, Hercules is traditionally depicted with a spindle when in the presence of Omphale, as here. To emphasize the romantic nature of Hercules and the queen's relationship, the scene on these sticks is filled with cherubs , butterflies, and flowers.

Adapted from

Dallas Museum of Art, Decorative Arts Highlights from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1995), 25 and 39.

Web Resources

Dallas Museum of Art
Read more about the 2007 DMA exhibition A Painting in the Palm of Your Hand.

Fan Association of North America
Watch a demonstration of the language of fans at the 30th Assemblage of the Fan Association of North America.