Artist or maker:
Place of production:
gouache on skin, ivory, mother-of-pearl and gold
Type of object:
fans (costume accessories)
Accession number:


The twelve figures in trompe l’oeil (‘deceives the eye’ in French) painted frames represent the months of the year, although they do not appear in sequence. They wear contemporary dress based on prints and engravings.

The seasons were a popular theme for the portrayal of fashionable styles. In the 1640s, the Czech engraver, Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677), who settled in London, published several famous series of etchings of female figures dressed appropriately for each season, with accompanying verses. Bound copies of some of Hollar’s works are in Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild's library in the Morning Room at Waddesdon.

In addition to this fan, Baroness Edmond also acquired a set of hand-painted French buttons from the late 18th century, which show typical pastimes for each month of the year.

The fan is mounted '"à l'anglaise"' (in the English manner). It consists of only one leaf on the front, applied to its supporting ribs which are then painted on the back to disguise them. The guild regulations in France insisted upon two leaves with the ribs sandwiched between them.

The sticks and guards are of ivory, carved, pierced and painted with a mixture of Oriental and European ornament. It is possible that these were imported from China or Japan, although English fan makers were extremely skilful at imitating them. The reverse of the leaf is painted with a simple grouping of fruit (peaches and gooseberries), a popular form of decoration in England.

Rachel Boak, 2012

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
Total height: 278
Height of leaf: 125
22 + 2
no. 1796
Hand-written in ink on back of right guard


Acquired by Baroness Edmond de Rothschild (b.1853, d.1935); inherited by her daughter-in-law, Dorothy de Rothschild (b.1895, d.1988); gifted to Waddesdon, The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1965 in lieu of inheritance tax.
Exhibition history:
Head to Toe: Accessorising the Georgians Fairfax House, York 7 March - 28 September 2014
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Waddesdon Manor, 1965



Hélène Alexander; The Pleasure of Fans; Denys Sutton, Aspects of the James A. de Rothschild collection at Waddesdon Manor. Originally published in Apollo, vol. CV, no. 184, June 1977, London, The Financial Times Ltd, 1977; pp. 458-461; pp.58-61, pl.VIII
Rachel Boak, The collecting tastes of Baroness Edmond de Rothschild, The Rothschild Archive - Review of the year April 2010 to March 2011, March 2011, 30-37; pp.30-37 (image p.33)

Indexed terms