Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Behind a nondescript blue door on the bustling Boulevard de Strasbourg in the 10th arrondissement, lies an unseen and (to us) unknown treasure:  Le Musée de l'Éventail (The Fan Museum).

Climbing the staircase to the third floor, we stepped back in time into a world of ivory and black lacquer, of painted silk, lace and carved wood, of mother-of-pearl, and exquisitely folded papers.

Wandering through a series of small rooms, we marvelled at the old machines that since the 1700s, formed the heart of a thriving fan industry in this part of Paris.

Boxes of materials line the walls, filled with lace, silk fabrics, frames, etc., waiting to be transformed into fans.

The current director, Anne Hoguet continues the tradition begun by her great great Grandfather, Joseph Hoguet Duroyaume, who opened his own workshop in 1872 in the l'Oise. In later years, his descendents acquired this historic atelier that, from the mid-19th century on, belonged to Ernest Kees, Félix Lepault and Désiré Debergue, all giants in this highly specialised art form.

Long before this era, though, fans were an integral part of daily life. The ancient Egyptians developed what was later called a flabellum or esmouchoir, designed to protect the Royal Kings from the pesky flies in that part of the Mediterranean. Even Tutenkamen had one, ornately carved from wood!

 The folding fan arrived in Europe from Japan and China in the 16th century, brought back by the Portuguese, and quickly adopted by the Italian and French Courts.

In the 1830s in France, beautiful masterpieces from the past two centuries once again found favor via a new technology, called "chromolithography", that allowed for a duplication of patterns.

Thus, this beautiful 18th century painting Didon reçoit les Troyens became a striking fan framed with marbled tortoiseshell.

Without doubt, the centerpiece of the Musée de l'Éventail is this stunning room, previously the salesroom for the atelier in the 19th century.

In the style of Henry II, the walls are covered with blue cloth embroidered with golden fleur-de-lys. Beautiful wooden drawers line the walls, with large tables in the centre for the actual sales. The room is listed as a Monument Historique, to be preserved for all time.

Over the fireplace, the carved figure of La Folie looks down on all this splendor. Above, the initials LD, record the owners' names: Lepault-Deberghe.

Along the window walls are lighted cases of the museum's collection of chinoiserie-patterned fans, the theme of their current exhibition.

Lots of extraordinary ivory and black lacquered examples... with glittering fiacre (mother-of-pearl)...

...this one with peacock feathers, an ivory frame and more birds and flowers painted on the white feathers...

...a pair of circular fans, layered with peacock feathers...

...and this giant tortoiseshell fan, regally displayed in a large wooden case.

At the end of the day, I kept coming back to this adorable small octagonal-shaped flat fan. The silk, hand-embroidered scene shows a hungry kingfisher perched above a pond, eyeing a small frog, who, with his front limbs raised above his head, is either saying "okay, I give up", or perhaps, in an attempt to negotiate,  "now, hold on a minute, let's talk this over"!!

Today, l'Atelier Anne Hoguet is the last producer of high quality, hand-made fans in France. They provide fans for the haute couture houses, as well as for opera, theatre and film companies. And they do a brisk business in restoring treasured fans for customers, who come from near and far to this small corner of Paris.

Out in the museum lobby, we looked over the nice selection of fans for sale, some folded, some flat, all in striking colors and patterns. Now, if we could just get some hot weather, I might go back and buy one!

À bientôt!


  1. So beautiful, what a great find. Thanks for sharing! Susan

  2. What a lovely afternoon that must have been. A beautiful museum.

  3. Wow such stunning fans!!! Another fascinating blog