A tribute to an era gone but not forgotten, where clown (water) guns terrorized children and small animals. And the coming of age of an internationally obscure netizen.
I'm not one of those people who has watched every episode of Antiques Road
Show. In fact, I've only seen a handful of episodes. But I know how to
search the Internet to find out that the disliked porcelain figurine I inherited
from my mother is actually worth more than the five dollar price tag I was
going to give it at a yard sale. When, on the eve of my last garage sale,
I saw the prices of the other figurines from the Lladro factory, this scene
played through my head:
FADE IN to a typical suburban front yard. MIDGE, a short plump woman of late
middle years, pulls into her driveway in her silver SUV. SALLY, her taller,
thinner and younger neighbor and confidante is watering the petunias in her
flower bed. SALLY sees MIDGE and lets go of the hose, and crosses over to
MIDGE: Oh, Sally! You will not believe what I found a that yard sale down on Lake
Avenue! Come look at this.
MIDGE grabs a wad of tissue paper from the passenger seat. She handles it
quite delicately as she slowly unwraps the layers, to reveal LLADRO FIGURINE
SALLY: (GASPS) It's absolutely exquisite!
MIDGE: You'll never believe what I paid for it. FIVE DOLLARS! That's all that idiot woman
was asking for it. I tried to be casual about it. She didn't have a clue.
So after that narrow escape from secret humiliation at the hands of strangers, I decided to take better stock of all the flotsam that's managed to find it's way into chez Wendy. Which is an extremely roundabout way to introduce you to grandmother's fan.
Up until about 2 weeks ago, I was convinced that this fan belonged to my maternal
grandmother, Hilda. I suppose I assumed it was Hilda's because it was given
to me by my mother. I've had it in my possession for quite some time now, and
until just a couple of weeks ago, it lived inside a velvet jewelry box; a box
that probably held a not-too-expensive bracelet or perhaps a necklace of modest
value. Our family never went in for ostentatious jewelry - or if they had,
it all got taken in the Great Break-In of 1962, and never really replaced.
I was never a big fan of precious metals or gemstones, preferring to spend
money on expensive musical instruments and computing equipment. You see, I've
had the computer bug from way back when computers were expensive.
The fan has been damaged by time, so it wasn't something to play with. And I never really looked at it carefully until just a few weeks ago. "OK, what the hell happened two weeks ago?" Well, I'm glad you asked that question.
Nothing much besides me finally buying a shadow box that I thought would be big enough to hold the fan so I could display it. In the process of setting up the shadow box, I discovered what an exquisite artifact this is.
To the left is a composite photo of the fan opened up completely (click it
for a large version). From what I can tell, the fan is made of ivory and hand-painted
silk, with tiny sequins hand-sewn onto it. There are no "makers marks" on it,
so I don't know if it's a fan produced by a well-known Parisian fan-maker from
the 19th century. I tend to doubt it, since it's not signed in that way. It could have
come from Paris, or somewhere in Europe. I'm not a fan expert, so it's hard
for me to say.
I want to point out some of the detail work. First, the painting on the fan is simply beautiful - from the tiny flowers to the butterflies. The butterfly motif is carried onto the spindles, or spines or whatever the official fannish name is for the stiff parts of the fan. Not only is the ivory (or bone, but I think it's ivory) parts painted, but they are carved out in places to emphasize the artwork.
You will also note that the fan has been repaired, and quite expertly, too.
There is a brass plate riveted into the back spine of the fan with tiny short
brass rivets. (Also, check out the carving on the latticework, the real size
is very small!) This was not a glue and tape job done by some grandfather or
other, this was taken to a Fan Repair Shop of some sort, where it was made
useable again, likely at no small expense. That repair indicated to me a couple
of things: (1) that the fan was probably very expensive and a prized possession
of the owner; (2) that it was used after the repair; and (3) that it probably didn't belong
to my maternal grandmother. That's because my maternal grandfather (pictured
in Chapter 1 of this rambling) was not one to spend money on such frivolous
extravagances. I get the impression that he was never terribly well-to-do and
it's not the kind of thing that would be in my mother's house as she was growing
up. My maternal grandmother has a lot of embroidery - whether she did these
as samples for sale (I suspect that to be the case, as a batch of them have "part
numbers" pinned to them), and did embroidery for others at some time of her
life will probably be one of those unsolved mysteries.
My father's family, on the other hand, had money. At least before the big crash of 1929, anyway. His family has the professional photographic portraits of all the children that my mother was still resentful of even after 70 years. My father's parents were even older than my mother's parents - and from what little research I've done on these kinds of fans, they were still in use at the time of the first World War. Grandma Libby had a "better lifestyle" at the turn of the century than grandma Hilda (at the turn of the century, I think grandma Hilda was still a child in Russia). I think it's more likely to be an artifact of my father's side of the family than my mother's.
My final piece of evidence is when I acquired this fan: I got it after
my father's aunt passed away - Grandma Libby's sister, who took all the "good
stuff" when Libby died. So my slow detective's brain finally pieced all the
bits together and determined that Aunt Lil had the fan in her possession for
a number of years. It's probably just as well, you know. If I had gotten hold
of this when I was a young child, it would be in even worse shape than it is
If you are a fan of fans, I've created a wallpaper of this fan for you to adorn your computer desktop. (Right click the link and select "Save As" to download it to your hard drive).