The Regency Wardrobe collection - research & making - The White Peacock - A fan-parasol
Though it's dated to the Victorian era I was so struck by this black lace fan-parasol when I came across an image of it that I knew I had to atempt to make something similar. I'd been planning to make fans and parasols, this was both. So clever, so beautifully engineered and crafted, so elegant.
© Fidm Museum:
The way it opened and spread, made me think immediately of a peacock's tail.
I've still only been able to find one other picture of a similar piece: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/155985?pos=&rpp=60&pg=1&ft=parasol&enlarge=true
It seems folding handles however were not unusual.
© V&A Museum, London
I'd also long loved this image and been hopeful that at some point I'd know how to work with it. I love images drawn with white in particular on a beige/coloured background and even though this peacock doesn't have it's tail spread yet the image captures it's height and grandeur.
Peacocks are of course native to India but when the British Empire conquered India they spread peafowl all over Europe and America. That is when the noticeable color white began to appear in peafowl. It has been speculated that a few white peafowl bred naturally in India. It is unknown if white peacocks appeared before the British discovered them, but the first known white color variation appeared in 1830. They are now bred for the white color in captivity.
"Peacocks were actually a delicacy in medieval times. They were even displayed on plates for guests, though it has been reported that peafowl meat is not very tender".
I knew that in the Georgian, Regency and Victorian era feathers were fashionable decoration, most especially on items meant for the head area: https://janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/regency-fashion-how-a-lady-accommodated-her-head-feathers-at-the-end-of-the-18th-century/
As this parasol was going to accompany the three white promenading outfits it had to be white itself but what an excuse this also was to employ the image of this beautiful bird.
As an aside a bit of background peacock research: The White Peacock is frequently mistaken for an albino, but it is
actually a colour variant of the Indian Blue. It's white colour makes it magnificent/elegant. The white peacock
particularly has been said to symbolize both everlasting life and also narcissism. In fact only the male possesses
the extravagant tail used during courtship. The female is dull brown, green and grey. An old Anglo-Norman, Osmont,
writes: "The eye-speckled feathers should warn a man that never too often can he have his eyes wide open, and gaze
inwardly upon his own heart."The Ancient Egyptian goddess Ma’at was believed to reside at the crossing place between
this world and the after-life and she was said to evaluate/judge each soul at death by weighing it against the weight of a Peacock feather. The peacock is a symbol of immortality (the ancients believed that the peacock had flesh which did not
decay after death and peacocks have been known to eat poisonous snakes with coming to harm) and renewal (peacocks naturally replace their feathers annually). As such, early Christian paintings/mosaics show peacock imagery. Peacock
feathers were also once used during the Easter season as church decorations. Pythagoras wrote that the soul of Homer
moved into a peacock to establish the respect and longevity due to the Greek poet’s words.
The Regency Wardrobe will be exhibited at Firle Place, in 2021. As soon as the collection has been shown images of all the finished pieces including The White Peacock will be made visible on stephaniesmart.net
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