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).
Boxes of materials line the walls, filled with lace, silk fabrics, frames, etc., waiting to be transformed into fans.
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!
Without doubt, the centerpiece of the Musée de l'Éventail is this stunning room, previously the salesroom for the atelier in the 19th century.
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...
...fans 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.