I’ll bet you thought this would be another narcissistic post about my adoring sycophants! No, nope. I’m here to discuss actual fans. The object, I mean. And the art of fanning. And of fans generally, in proper Victorian society.
As you may be aware, in nearly every one of my portraits, I am clutching a closed fan. Fans were not only an important aesthetic accessory in my day, but they served myriad purpose. For instance, if one’s difficult mother-in-law entered the room whilst private business was being discussed with one’s consort, one might thrust the fan a wee bit higher, covering the mouth just enough to prevent lip-reading.
And speaking of mouth, I suppose I should confess to my dear readers that my one unfortunate physical flaw was my teeth. Big, yellow horse teeth had I. (My mother-in-law used to offer the peroxide remedies and so forth, even lamenting this defect to Mummi once, “Ludovica,” she said, “can we not have anything done about your Sisi’s smile?”)
Ergo, my ever-present fan.
But, as always, I digress.
You see, the main function of a ladies’ fan was to, well, flirt! Indeed, there was a whole lexicon, which I submit herewith:
The fan placed near the heart: You have won my love.
Half-opened fan pressed to the lips: You may kiss me.
Hiding the eyes behind an open fan: I love you.
Opening and closing the fan several times: You are cruel.
Fanning slowly: I am married.
Fanning quickly: I am engaged.
Twirling the fan in the left hand: You are being watched.
Now, isn’t that fun? Do you not wish fans were still popular now? How unsubtle today’s flirtations are. A wink. A note. A text. How boring. Of course, had I access to today’s dental reconstruction, I would have had little need for my fan.