The Fan: Historical Information

Fan depicting the victory of William Duke of Cumberland at the Siege of Stirling, 1 February 1746

The Fan

The hand-painted fan was a significant political tool used by British women to conceal and reveal their political emotion in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century social scene. From the Assembly room floor, to the Theatre and Concert Halls, local elites used fashion to exhibit their views, fanning into flame rivalries tensions between Whigs and Tories, Jacobites and Hanoverians, as they mingled. Strong images of a patriotic, political and religious flavour, such as this image of Cumberland’s army chasing the Jacobites from Stirling in 1746, were painted upon women’s fans as a public declaration of their own political allegiance, and in open provocation to the Jacobite opposition. Women were encouraged by polemicists, such as politician and writer Joseph Addison in 1716, to make use of the fan as an expression of their political and religious passions in order ‘To shew their Disbelief of any Jacobite Story by a Flirt of it. To fall a fanning themselves, when a Tory comes into one of their Assemblies’.

Card written by Anita Fairney and Susan Broomhall for “Stories of Emotions and Scottish Objects”, a research partnership between the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions and the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum.

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