A Lesson in the Use of a Fan, by Abraham Solomon (1823-62). Not dated. Oil on canvas. H 48 x W 75 cm. Collection: Gallery Oldham, accession number 1.18/17. Acquisition method: bequeathed by Mrs J. Wilde Clegg, 1918. This has kindly been made available for reuse on the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatves licence. Image capture, text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Detail: the master and his older "pupil."

This amusing view of an "academy" shows a swarthy etiquette master, who looks like a courtier from a foreign court, instructing a group of richly-dressed women in the correct use of a fan. Complete with pigtail and comically protruding rapier, the master is particularly addressing a matronly woman with a tubby little pug by her feet. The dog's head is tilted at exactly the same angle as its mistress's, and the little creature is similar to her in girth too! The rest of the group betray the various responses of an audience under instruction. Two inattentive young women are whispering on the left, behind them is another, perhaps stifling a yawn; yet another, with chin held high, looks distinctly unimpressed; while the three on the left watch him carefully — although the one on the extreme left seems to be looking at the pair who are whispering, rather than at the master himself. As usual, much is left to the imagination. But, in general, Solomon seems to be making fun of fashionable society in the eighteenth century and the whole culture of "the season." Interestingly, the pageboy at the door, letting in another well-dressed "pupil," is a little black boy.

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Last modified 22 March 2019