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  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (made)

  • Date:

    Late 18th Century

  • Materials and Techniques:

    tortoise shell, vellum, water-colour and gilt

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This fan shows a scene of horse racing. A group of galloping horses and jockeys appear in the middle distance, while a group of male and female riders in the foreground look on. Since fans at this time were often intended as souvenirs to mark important events it is possible that this fan commemorates a particular race, perhaps at Newmarket (founded in 1665) or Ascot (founded 1711). A fan was an essential accessory in the formal dress of a wealthy woman. Although its original function was to cool the face, the fan soon became an important tool in non-verbal communication. The manner in which a lady held and moved her fan conveyed her feelings toward those around her.
The scene depicted on the fan leaf is packed with action: a boy beats a dog; a man runs from under the thundering hooves of steed at full pelt. The figures are painted beautifully: faces could be recognisable individual characters, and there are examples of very naturalistic poses and movements among the riders. They seem to be exchanging expressive glances and conversation, and this adds to the liveliness of the scene. Among the male riders and spectators two female riders are shown prominently in the foreground. Their colourful riding habits are a very important part of the composition: the blue dress at the right balances the red rider on the left.

Physical description

Pleated paper, painted on the front in water-colours with a racing scene, showing jockeys on horseback racing, and male and female mounted spectators. In the foreground are two boys with a dog. The leaf has a gilded edge. The back is plain. The sticks are undecorated tortoiseshell. The guards are a narrow triangular shape with rounded shoulders, and are carved tortoiseshell, with a spray of flowers on a hatched ground and gilded in places. The rivets are metal with tortoiseshell studs.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (made)


Late 18th Century

Materials and Techniques

tortoise shell, vellum, water-colour and gilt


Length: 27 cm Closed, Width: 47 cm Open, Height: 27 cm Open

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

All the Queen's Horses: The Role of the Horse in British History. Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, 2003


Tortoise shell; Vellum; Water-colour; Gilt


Fans; Europeana Fashion Project


Textiles and Fashion Collection

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