The hand screen, an original accessory

The hand screen, an original accessory

Thehand screen, cousin of the fan, is a purely domestic object and reserved inside bourgeois and aristocratic dwellings. It was mainly used to protect the face from the heat of the chimney fires, but not only. It was very fashionable in the 18th century, especially in its second half. Its market value is almost zero, but thanks to its rarity, this item is starting to be sought after.

A fashion accessory with multiple uses

Reserved for small apartments and boudoirs, it was essential to protect the face of the home, especially that of the ladies. Hanging near the hearth within easy reach, it was used daily in winter. It could also be used to fuel the conversation or comment on the news by reading the texts written on one side.

Sold by haberdashery merchants or print publishers, such as Lattré, the geographer, ordinary engraver of the king who offered these articles in his shop in Paris called “In the city of Bordeaux”, the hand screen was made of cardboard and of a wooden handle, reaching about forty centimeters, costing about a pound. It was not transportable, nor retractable like the fan. But its beauty and its value lay mainly in the drawing or the engraving and in its handle.

The wooden or ivory handle was often carved and wrapped in silk.

The cardboard sheet was decorated with illustrations by Watteau or François Boucher. The two sides dealt with facts of history, society, theater or even fables. On one side, the design was engraved or painted in gouache, embellished with flowers and garlands, representing castles or royals, theater scenes, maps of geography. In the 18th century, good society was interested in the stories of great travelers and their discoveries of the world.

On the other side, it was the explanation of the drawing. We often found the story of the king, the kingdom, royal births, royal residences.

An object that has become rare

These objects are however rare and there are very few preserved copies. The market value is not important, because they were manufactured in large quantities and above all they had indoor use, they were not shown. As soon as they were a little worn, they were thrown into the fire. Over time, they have become fragile and poetic objects, sometimes appearing in collections and private homes.

A large museum in Cambridge preserves a precious item with the perspective view of the Palace of Versailles, from the avenue de Paris, decorated with garlands and flower borders. We also discover the meticulous work thanks to the details of the onlookers and the coaches. And on the back, it's the story of Versailles and its grandeur, from Louis XIII to Louis XVI.

According to the Revue Château de Versailles.


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