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Bacchus and Ariadne

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)
    France (possibly, made)

  • Date:

    c. 1740 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gouache on vellum, with applied cut rye straw and mother-of-pearl, and carved ivory sticks (Loxodonta sp.)

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition

This fan would have been a luxury item. The leaf is made of vellum, a type of specially prepared animal skin. It has been hand-painted very skilfully in subdued colours with the myth of Bacchus and Ariadne. The maker has applied additional decoration of cut straw and mother-of-pearl. These would have caught the light and make the fan glitter as the owner waved it to and fro.The ivory sticks are richly carved and pierced. The person who made this fan in the mid-1700s could have been French or English. Both the fan leaf and the sticks are of the highest quality, so it would have been a very expensive piece.

Physical description

Gouache on vellum with the subject of Bacchus and Ariadne. The top edge of the mount has a gold painted border. Amongst painted flowers at either side of the leaf, additional decoration by cut dyed (green) and natural straw, and mother of pearl in shape of petals forming flowers. The back of the mount display chinoiserie scene of painted sprigs of cherry blossoms, colourful flowers and a black and red bird perching on one of the branches.
The ivory sticks are richly carved and pierced showing classical motifs, and musical instruments on the guards.

Place of Origin

England (made)
France (possibly, made)


c. 1740 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Gouache on vellum, with applied cut rye straw and mother-of-pearl, and carved ivory sticks (Loxodonta sp.)


Length: 274 mm Open, Width: 516 mm Open

Object history note

Purchased for £14 from M. Baur, Paris on May 8, 1869. RF 531/69 not found.

Descriptive line

Gouache on vellum with applied cut straw and mother of pearl, and ivory sticks, England, mid-18th century

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Hart, A. & Taylor, E. Fans. London: V&A Publications, 1998, pp25-26, ill. plate 11


Gouache; Vellum; Straw; Mother of pearl; Ivory; Animal part - Loxodonta sp.


Painting; Applied work; Carving; Piercing


Accessories; Fans; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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