Catherine Palace, Zubov Wing, 1st Floor
(entrance from Palace Vestibule; June to September from Private Garden) Visiting information
A hand fan is a small and lightweight, usually folding, hand-held implement, used to create an airflow and associated with a bird’s wing and a flight. Exhibition Booklet
The Russian word веер is a relatively late borrowing from the Dutch wáaier, which had been rethought, remade and phonetically transformed by folk etymology from the Russian verb веять (to blow) and became customary in the early 1700s. The word’s equivalents in other languages are the Italian ventaglio and French éventail, both originating from the Latin ventum (wind). The English fan is consonant with the Chinese feng (wind). The Spanish abanico is a diminutive of the Old Spanish abano, corresponding to the Russian words опахало and махальцо.
The Tsarskoye Selo collection of over 100 hand fans includes Western European, Oriental and Russian items of the 1700s (our historical collection) and of the 1800s–1940s, purchased from antique stores and private collectors and donated to the museum over the past years.
Forty nine fans in our collection were restored during 2010–2013 by a team of high-class professionals from the State Museum and Exhibition Center ROSIZO and the company Phenomen (Moscow), as part of the governmental program “Russian Culture (2006-2011)”.
The restorers' names: L.V. Getjman, Y.A. Voronin, O.S. Golovliova, T.A. Zhdanova, S.V. Krasnova, T.A. Levykina, M.E. Mailyan, S.V. Medvedeva, O.S. Popova, Y.V. Savkova, E.S. Sinitsyna, N.V. Solomatina, S.G. Tyutimova, A.Y. Utekhina, O.V. Frolova, N.N. Tsvetkova, E.Y. Chepeleva, A.V. Shulinina, T.V. Yurjeva.
All works were supervised by the highest-category artist and restorer N.P. Sinitsyna, head of textile and leather restoration. The masters literally gave a new life to these delicate works of art and made their display possible.
The unique exhibition ‘Hand Fan Returns’, set out at the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace, showcases a number of the restored items for the first time. Its highlights are some very valuable 18th-century fans, as well as fans from the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Conceptually, the exhibition draws on cultural phenomena of different ages and lands – Europe, Russia and the Far East, meeting like the sticks of an imaginary fan spread out in time. Little concentrated on the history and production centers of fans, it uses modern scenography tools to accentuate artistic and semantic properties of these exquisite objects, their lightness and captivating beauty, and to recreate the atmosphere of a ball and a holiday – so natural for this fragile and elegant attribute of aristocratic lifestyle.
The fans emerge from the darkness like bright fluttering butterflies. They shimmer in silver and gold. Their colours play in the rays of light and cast lacy shadows. Reflected in the mirrors, they bring a nostalgia for the refined beauty of bygone eras, which is lacking so much in our pragmatic time.