Hit the Fan

There are some professional art models who can, upon request, provide an array of props, costumes, and accessories to adorn their pose. I am not one of them. Yes, I confess. I’m not the greatest prop/costume model. Don’t get me wrong, I have some stuff. Nice scarves, a ballet costume, a couple of hats. I had a blue kimono that has mysteriously gone missing. I am a full time artist’s model who shows up to work with little more than my face and body. Most of the time those two things are more than sufficient. But it’s the models who also work as dancers, actors, or performers of some kind, who have sizable collections of accessories, which include such things as feather boas, turbans, bolero jackets, canes, capes, tiaras, and the classic favorite, the fan.

I don’t have a fan. My mother once remarked to me, “Why don’t you have a fan? You should have a fan for posing”. Can you believe it? My own mother! Pointing out my modeling shortcomings! Thanks Mom 😆

The late Aviva Stone was a fabulous model when it came to costuming poses. She worked with hats, jewelry, and, of course, fans. She worked them well too. Probably better than anyone.

There are two kinds of hand-held fans, the folding kind and the screen kind. I believe the folding fan originated in Japan, while the screen came out of China. Both traditionally have bamboo frames and often have decorative designs printed on them. Fans add an interesting shape and focal point to a painting, and are most commonly used as a prop for female, rather than male, sitters.

Mary Cassatt’s Lady With a Fan:


William Merritt Chase’s The Blue Kimono. Fans and kimonos naturally go well together:


James Jacques Tissot was a 19th century French painter. This piece is called simply, The Fan, from 1875. Interesting shape created by the pose, with the fan held prominently up and conveying a playful feel:


This one is gorgeous and striking, from the unique look of the model to the furious red of the kimono. I think it’s my favorite of the group. By Jules Joseph Lefebvre, appropriately titled, The Language of the Fan:


From Diego Velasquez, the great master of Spanish baroque, this is Lady With a Fan:


Englishman Albert Joseph Moore presented a fan in a more Greco-Roman style in this work, The Gilded Fan:


This next painting makes no sense, in my opinion. What is supposed to be the focal point here? With that one exposed breast, your eye goes right to it, which is fine, but then the fan seems frivolous. I’m no artist, but I would have either eliminated the fan or covered up that breast. Jean Beauduin’s A Lady Holding a Fan. An alternate title could have been “Half-exposed Lady Holding a Fan”, haha. I would also lose the plant:


Pedro Antonio wants us to know that these are Two Elegant Ladies Holding Fans. They’re “elegant”, ok? Don’t forget that! I think they look like two party girl troublemakers, like the Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan of 1828. These chicks are up to no good, I can tell 😉


My only comment about this next painting is this: that is one big-ass fan! From Roberto Fontano, A Young Girl Holding a Fan:


Even some 20th century artists got on the fan bandwagon. If I ever do pose with a fan, I’d like to present it this way. Sexy and alluring. Very cool! From Kees van Dongen, Woman With a Fan, 1920:


I found almost all of the images in this post on Art Renewal Center.

17 thoughts on “Hit the Fan

  1. K L says:

    That was great, just what I needed at this point in time. Beautiful paintings…something to read that I didn’t have to think to hard about, a
    smile on my face so big my jaws hurt and a belly ache from laughing.
    Much better than the last three days of listening to Mr. Jackson singing
    about the man in the mirror and making me think about how much of
    an ass I can be. Oh no! I hope thats not foot I’m tasting again.

    • artmodel says:


      Yeah, I left the Michael Jackson video up there the whole weekend! I meant to publish this fan post on Sunday night but I got sleepy.

      You really seemed to enjoy this one, which is great. Glad I made you laugh. My little wisecracks have been known to do that on occasion 😆

      No I didn’t detect any foot-in-mouth evidence from your comments!


  2. Stephanie says:

    Hi Claudia,

    A few years ago, I was cast in a restoration comedy, “Way of the World.” I played Millamant, a much sought after, strong-willed woman. I had to work a fan, and there is plenty of literature on how to do so. It was so much fun it made me wish I could carry one around with me. Very helpful for coyness, playful admonishment, brazen flirtation, feigned bashfulness and a host of other actions. Not to mention hiding — no one can see you when you hide your face behind a fan.

    Loved this post!

    • artmodel says:

      Awesome comments, Steph! Good tips for fan usage. Sounds like you became quite the pro!

      I would definitely require the fan as prop to convey “feigned bashfulness” and “hiding”, since I am terrible at both. I’d need all the help I could get!

      Reading your wonderfully vivid descriptions I can just envision you expressing those actions/emotions, and doing them brilliantly like the talented person you are 🙂


  3. ray says:

    Hi Claudia

    Thanks for this post and the breathtaking artwork. Im sure it was a lot of work to put this together. Im not a big fan of fans(no pun intended). I think it used to be hot in those days with no AC. May be that was fashinable back then.

    Hey dont you have a birthday coming?

    Thanks ray

    • artmodel says:


      Yes I do have a birthday coming up, on July 22nd. Thanks a lot for reminding me! I’m depressed enough, what are you trying to do, kill me? Just kidding 😆 😆

      Fans are out of style from a practical standpoint. I think artists may like models to use them as an homage to past centuries, ladies sitting in parlors, and as an accessory to traditional costume attire.

      Thanks for your comments.


  4. swatch says:

    Hey Claudia – Thanks for this delightful guided wander through the world of fans and models. You have a way of bringing these paintings to life for me. – Stephen

  5. fredh1 says:

    An artist’s model without a fan is like a cat without a box.

  6. Andrew says:

    Costume modeling is not my thing either. Wardrobe issues are so much simpler with nude figure modeling. But I do like to use props, especially for gesture poses. Props can add context, symbolism, or just an interesting visual element to a drawing.

    • artmodel says:


      Yes, there is a hassle aspect to a costume gig. Nude is so much easier! Disrobe and you’re ready to go, no worrying about clothing, fabrics, props, etc.

      I’ve never used props for gesture drawings, but the way you describe it sounds interesting. I bet the artists appreciate your creativity.

      Thanks so much for commenting!


  7. Thanks for a grand selection, Claudia.

    Of them all, I like van Dongen’s best, just a few lines but dramatic and feels more like a candid capture than a pose.

    • artmodel says:


      Excellent choice. Funny how the minimalist van Dongen piece is just as, if not more, expressive than the elaborate paintings. I agree that it feels like a candid capture. Such simple lines, yet plenty of impact.

      Thanks for your comment.


  8. Maureen McGinnis says:

    Very enjoyable article. Thank you. Maybe the model with her breast exposed holds the fan to hit the artist if he tries to get too friendly.

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