gold, painted, champlevé and basse-taille enamel, ostrich feathers

38.2 x 9.6 cm (the frame); 52 x 37 cm (overall)

The front valve of the fan is painted with a military trophy surmounted by a crown and crescent moon; in the centre is a cartouche of translucent blue enamel with gold initials IP, for Isma‘il Pasha, a grandson of Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha and Khedive of Egypt from 1863 to 1879. Before 1863 Isma‘il made several journeys to Europe as an envoy of his uncle Sa‘id Pasha and spent time at the Ottoman court in Istanbul. Upon his accession he put this experience to use by reforming many of Egypt’s institutions and placing an emphasis on the country’s potential as a leading force both in the Middle East and in Africa. Although foreign opposition eventually led to his deposition, he played a major role in the emergence of Egypt as a modern country.

The Khedive Isma‘il’s inevitable exposure to European art in the course of his travels, makes it particularly appropriate that this fan combines elements from both cultures. Its basic form, possibly derived from fans depicted in ancient Egyptian art, was unfashionable in Europe, where the articulated fan was favoured. For the decoration, the Islamic crescent moon is incorporated into an otherwise European-style trophy with crown; his initials, rather than being in Arabic, are in Gothic script, then the most fashionable  in Europe. Finally, the rear valve of the fan is decorated with a bouquet of flowers that is reminiscent of contemporary Qajar enamel, which in turn was influenced by European work. The fine quality of this fan, a bespoke piece made for a distinguished patron, differentiates it from the more routine and repetitive work produced in Switzerland for the Ottoman and other eastern markets.

Haydn Williams, Enamels of the World: 1700-2000 The Khalili Collections, London 2009, cat. 3, pp. 42–3.