The Paris atelier of fan maker Anne Hoguet is unique, a glorious Belle Epoque showroom lit by chandeliers and lined with sculpted walnut cabinets and vitrines containing a spectacular collection of fans dating from the 18th century to the present. Hoguet has set up this showroom as a museum — the Musée de l’Eventail, whose collection includes about a thousand fans of every color, size and texture, from snowy swan’s plumes on mother-of-pearl mountings to dramatic black lace on ebony. Some glisten with gold lace and rainbow-tinted silk, others are hand-painted with pastoral or mythological scenes. The workmanship is astonishing. Although the pleated “leaves”, or feuilles, first attract the eye, the montures, or mountings, are equally remarkable. Some sticks are of ivory, others of tortoiseshell, horn or precious wood. The artisans who fabricated these mountings once belonged to a separate guild from those who created the feuilles, and when Joseph Hoguet Duroyaume founded his company in the Oise département in 1872, it was to create montures. These were sent to Paris, where master fan makers added the feuilles. His grandson, Hervé Hoguet, combined the two trades and moved the company to Paris, where he bought the premises of a prestigious 19th-century fan maker.
Hervé’s daughter Anne continues the tradition, creating and restoring fans, mainly for theater, opera, cinema and haute couture clients. Fans, introduced to France in the 16th century by Catherine de Medici, had their golden age during the Belle Epoque, when Paris boasted 82 fan makers. But with the arrival of the Roaring Twenties the fan fell from fashion, and now Hoguet is one of France’s last fan makers. Her workshop, adjoining the showroom, is a fascinating jumble of patterns, frames and fabrics. Honored by the Ministry of Culture with the title of Maître d’Art in 1994, Hoguet is passing on her savoir faire to interns from several schools of applied arts. And interested amateurs are welcome to visit the museum, which also displays some of the raw materials and tools of fan making and hosts temporary exhibits of antique and modern fans.
Originally published in the December 2009 issue of France Today.