A “Les Sept Âges de L’Homme” Fan

The Museum Collections team here at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust have been busy this last week. Not only have they been welcoming back items that were sent on loan to the British Museum for the “Shakespeare: Staging the World” exhibition, but there has also been an exciting new addition to the collection: this 18th century fan.

An 18th century engraved fan, including a French translation of the ‘Seven Ages of Man’ speech from “As You Like It”.

Rosalyn Sklar, Museum Collections Officer tells us a little more about this interesting new acquisition:

“This 18th Century paper and bone fan is decorated with seven hand-coloured oval stipple-engraved vignettes linked by floral swags.  The engraved text beneath is an anonymous French translation of the ‘Seven Ages of Man’ speech from Shakespeare’s As You Like It. On the other side is an oval portrait of Shakespeare within a starburst and surmounted by a trumpeting angel.

Reverse of the 18th century fan, showing the oval portrait of Shakespeare.

A similar fan in the collection at the Folger was made by John Cock and J P Crowder of London in 1794.

This new addition to the collection is the only 18th Century object we have that features the work of Shakespeare translated into a foreign language.  It is exciting to think that other versions of this fan may have found their way across the channel as well as being enjoyed in England. It is also contemporary with the beginning of the trade in Shakespeare souvenirs associated with the Garrick Jubilee of 1769.

Detail of the engraved vignettes on the fan.



A fan such as this one would have been designed with the middle class in mind.  As it is printed, rather than hand-painted, it would have been a cheaper option.  This one is typical of the ‘conversation piece’ fans produced during this period. John Cock was Master of the Worshipful Company of Fan Makers on several occasions.  He produced the ‘Conundrum’ fan in 1791 which was used by German Royalty to pass messages.”

  • Liski

    A magnificent thing! Modern fans are also often beautiful – not such these ones, but still. I believe nowadays people would rather use them as admirable works of art and souvenirs, than for the purpose of cooling or refreshing oneself. Still, I always take a fan with me when I travel. A very useful thing for travelling by train in summer when it’s so hot inside.

A freely available online exhibition exploring keys aspects of the music in Shakespeare’s plays, as well as music inspired by Shakespeare.