Hand Fans, Goose Necks, and Archery Contests

Posted in exhibitions, journal articles by Editor on August 15, 2014


Barthélemy du Pan, The Children of Frederick, Prince of Wales, 1746
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

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Pierre-Henri Biger’s website dedicated to the history of fans, Place de l’Eventail, recently published a notice related to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century target contests, commonly held in mid-August, involving a live goose (or more precisely, the goose’s neck, cou de l’oie).1 Biger quotes from Paul Sébillot’s Le Folklore de France (Paris, 1906), to make sense of a mis au rectangle (pictured at the website):

In Grez-Doiceau, in the Walloon Brabant, the second day of the fair, a live goose was hanging from a rope which brought together the upper ends of two long poles stuck in the ground. A man perched on a trestle remembered all the calamities which had hit the town during the past year, and accused the goose to be the cause. . .2

Installation view of The First Georgians, The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

Installation view of The First Georgians, The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 2014.

With The First Georgians exhibition (on view at The Queen’s Gallery in London until October 12) still fresh in my memory, it’s hard to not to think of Barthélemy du Pan’s 1746 large-scale portrait of The Children of Frederick, Prince of Wales (Royal Collection), which depicts the future George III as having just struck a wooden popinjay.3 The prince wears the tartan of the Royal Company of Archers—which, as a British regimental uniform, was exempt from the 1745 ban on Scottish national dress. Bearing in mind Desmond Shawe-Taylor’s suggestion that we understand the picture as “an early example of the process by which Scottish identity became something manly and romantic, rather than threatening and rebellious,” I wonder if rustic traditions of shooting a living bird as part of a celebration with ‘atonement/scapegoat’ undertones might add another layer of relevant associations.4 I’m not sure how far I would push the point: the two contests weren’t the same thing (particularly from an animal rights perspective), and with folk festivals, it’s difficult to pin down specifics (times, places, meanings, &c.). Still, Biger’s piece, at the very least, suggests a larger context for archery contests and their pictorial representation in the eighteenth century and might encourage us to look to fans for useful points of comparison.

Craig Ashley Hanson


1. Pierre-Henri Biger’s piece is available in both English and French. On the topic generally, see Biger’s recent article, “Introduction à l’éventail européen aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles,” Seventeenth-Century French Studies 36 (July 2014): 84–92. The issue, edited by Katherine Ibbett, is dedicated to the topic of fans. The table of contents is available as a PDF file here.

2. Paul Sébillot, Le Folklore de France (Paris, 1906), volume 3, pp. 247–48.

3. The Royal Collection’s online entry for Barthélemy du Pan’s The Children of Frederick, Prince of Wales is available here.

4. Desmond Shawe-Taylor makes the point in the entry for the painting from the exhibition catalogue, which he also edited, The First Georgians: Art & Monarchy, 1714–60 (London: Royal Collection Trust, 2014), p. 366.

Exhibition | Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on August 15, 2014

From the NMWA:

Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea
National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., 5 December 2014 — 12 April 2015

Curated by Timothy Verdon


Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Madonna of the Goldfinch, ca. 1767–70 (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Samuel H. Kress Collection #1943.4.40)

Appearing throughout the entire world, her image is immediately recognizable. In the history of Western art, she was one of the most popular subjects for centuries. Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea is a landmark exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), bringing together masterworks from major museums, churches and private collections in Europe and the United States. Iconic and devotional, but also laden with social and political meaning, the image of the Virgin Mary has influenced Western sensibility since the sixth century.

Picturing Mary examines how the image of Mary was portrayed by well-known Renaissance and Baroque artists, including Botticelli, Dürer, Michelangelo, Pontormo, Gentileschi and Sirani. More than 60 paintings, sculptures and textiles are on loan from the Vatican Museums, Musée du Louvre, Galleria degli Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti and other public and private collections—many exhibited for the first time in the United States.

“Among the most important subjects in Western art for more than a millennium was a young woman: Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her name was given to cathedrals, her face imagined by painters and her feelings explored by poets,” said exhibition curator and Marian scholar Monsignor Timothy Verdon, director, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence, Italy. “This exhibition will explore the concept of womanhood as represented by the Virgin Mary, and the power her image has exerted through time, serving both sacred and social functions during the Renaissance and Baroque periods.”

Picturing Mary is the newest project in an ongoing program of major historical loan exhibitions organized by NMWA, including An Imperial Collection: Women Artists from the State Hermitage Museum (2003) and Royalists to Romantics: Women Artists from the Louvre, Versailles, and other French National Collections (2012). In addition to illustrating the work of women artists, NMWA also presents exhibitions and programs about feminine identity and women’s broader contributions to culture. Picturing Mary extends, in particular, the humanist focus of Divine and Human: Women in Ancient Mexico and Peru, a large-scale exhibition organized by NMWA in 2006.

The full press release (16 July 2014) is available as a PDF file here»

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From ACC Distrbution:

Timothy Verdon, Melissa R. Katz, Amy Remensnyder, Miri Rubin, Kathryn Wat, Picturing Mary Woman, Mother, Idea (New York: Scala Arts Publishers, 2014), 160 pages, ISBN: 978-1857598957, $45 / £30.

9781857598957_p0_v2_s600Iconic and devotional, but also fraught with social and political significance, the image of the Virgin Mary has shaped Western art since the sixth century. Depictions of the Virgin Mary in art through the ages are examined from a unique combination of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and contemporary art-historical perspectives. The thought-provoking texts examine Mary’s image as an enthroned queen, a tender young mother and a pious woman, demonstrating how her personification of womanhood has resonated throughout history to the present day.

Timothy Verdon is director of Museo dell Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore. Melissa R. Katz is Luther Gregg Sullivan Fellow in Art History, Wesleyan University. Amy Remensnyder is associate professor, Department of History at Brown University. Miri Rubin is Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History, Queen Mary University of London. Kathryn Wat is Chief Curator,
National Museum of Women in the Arts.



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